Part 5 out of 8
Benjamin followed him into Water Street, where he pointed out a public
"There's the 'Crooked Billet,'" said the Quaker, "a tavern that is
reputable, where thee can find board and lodgings for a day or a
"Thank you, sir, for your kindness," said Benjamin; "I shall not
forget you. May every body be as friendly to you as you have been to
At the same time, Benjamin thought it was a very queer name for a
public house. He did not like either part of it, and he said to
himself, "'Crooked Billet'!--crookedness and a cudgel to strike down
the turbulent with, are suggested." The name did not suggest any thing
pleasant to him. But he went in, and engaged lodging and board until
"Where are you from?" asked the landlord, scanning him from head to
"I am from Boston."
"Boston, hey? How long have you been on the way?"
"Got friends in Philadelphia?"
"Not one; all strangers to me."
"What did you come here for?"
"I came to secure work in a printing office. I am a printer by trade."
"How old are you?"
"And came all the way from Boston alone?"
Benjamin saw by this time that the landlord suspected him of being a
runaway apprentice. This class of characters was large at that day,
for apprentices were often subjected to cruelty that made them
runaways. So he closed the conversation as soon as possible and went
to his room, where he slept until six o'clock, when he was called to
supper. Not long after supper he went to bed and slept soundly until
He arose early, took special pains to make himself as presentable as
possible, paid his bill without waiting for breakfast, perhaps because
he was reducing his cash so nearly to the last cent, and sallied forth
in search of Mr. Bradford. He experienced no trouble in finding the
printing office; but was very much surprised to find Mr. Bradford of
New York there, father of the young printer Bradford of Philadelphia,
to whom the father sent him.
"Glad to see you, my young friend. I got here first, after all, as you
see," remarked Mr. Bradford, the father, as he welcomed Benjamin with
a hearty shake of the hand. "Had any ill-luck on your way?"
"Not exactly bad luck, for I considered myself quite lucky to get here
at all; but a slow, tedious trip, with delays and storms and
disappointments most of the time," was Benjamin's answer, and he
entered somewhat into details.
"Well, you are here, and I am glad to meet you; and, now, you want
work." Then, turning to his son, Mr. Bradford continued: "My son, let
me introduce this young man to you. He is a printer by trade, from
Boston, in search of work: Benjamin Franklin. He called upon me in New
York, and I advised him to come to you, knowing that your leading
printer had died."
The young printer and the runaway were soon acquainted,--young
Bradford being as genial and friendly as the senior.
"I regret that I have no work for you now. I have filled the place
made vacant by the death of Bolder."
"There is another printer here, is there not?" asked the senior
"Yes, Keimer; it is possible he may want a man. But it is breakfast
time now; let us all go to breakfast, and then we'll see what can be
Benjamin was invited to breakfast with them, and there learned that
Mr. Bradford of New York came all the way on horseback, starting very
unexpectedly the next day after Benjamin left New York. He was
somewhat surprised, also, to learn that Philadelphia had only seven
thousand inhabitants at that time--five thousand less than Boston.
"I will go with you to see Mr. Keimer," said the senior Bradford,
after breakfast. "Perhaps I may be of service to you."
"I shall feel myself under great obligations to you if you will,"
answered Benjamin. "It is quite necessary that I should get work, as
my money is nearly gone."
"We can fix that, I think," said young Bradford. "I may be able to
give you a little something to do, if Keimer don't want you, so that
you won't starve. You can lodge at my house."
"Thanks," replied Benjamin. "I appreciate your kindness, and hope to
be able to make some return for it in the future. I am sorry not to
appear before you in more respectable apparel, but my chest of clothes
comes by water from New York, and I have not received it yet."
"Clothes don't make the man," responded the elder Bradford, who had
discovered a remarkably bright and intelligent youth in Benjamin.
"Brains take the precedence of clothes in New York and Philadelphia."
Benjamin found himself among good friends, so he cheerfully accepted
their counsel. The senior Bradford accompanied him to Keimer's.
"Neighbor," said Bradford, "I have brought to you a young man from
Boston, a printer by trade; he is after work. Perhaps you can employ
"That depends on his qualifications," answered Mr. Keimer. "I want
some one who is acquainted with the business."
"You will find him all right, I think; he appears to know what he is
"How long have you worked at the business?" inquired Keimer, turning
"Over three years."
"Do you understand all parts of it so that you can go on with it?"
"Yes, I think I do; you can ascertain by trying me."
"Take this composing-stick and try your hand; let me see what you can
Benjamin proceeded to give an exhibition of his skill at type-setting,
which he did so rapidly and easily that Keimer was delighted.
"Very well done, indeed. I think you told the truth; you must have had
considerable experience. I will employ you as soon as I have
sufficient work. At present, I have nothing for you to do."
"It is not often, Mr. Keimer, that you have the opportunity to employ
a skilled hand like this young man," suggested Bradford. "If you could
give him enough to do to pay his board, until you are full of work, it
may be for your interest and his, too."
"That is true. I am at work now upon this Elegy on Aquila Rose, who
was clerk of the Pennsylvania Legislature; and I may want him to print
it. I shall have it ready in three or four days. I am expecting other
work soon, also."
"You can return to my son's house to eat and sleep," said Mr. Bradford
to Benjamin. "I think Mr. Keimer will want you before long. He expects
to have business."
"What do you think of my prospects here, sir?" inquired Keimer of Mr.
Bradford, supposing him to be a citizen of Philadelphia. "I have
hardly got under way yet; it is only a few weeks since I began."
"That will depend upon your own exertions and business talents.
Philadelphia is a growing town, where industry and perseverance will
"I shall do all in my power to draw the business of the town; and I
think I can do it by industry and giving first-class work."
"How can you expect to get all the business when there is another
printer here, who has been established some time?"
Keimer answered the last inquiry by disclosing his plans, as Bradford
artfully drew him out on every point, until he learned how he was
calculating to command all the business, and run his son out of it.
Nor did Keimer dream that he was conversing with the father of the
other printer, whom he designed to deprive of his livelihood. All the
while Benjamin stood and listened to their conversation, perceiving
that Bradford was shrewdly learning Keimer's plans for the benefit of
"You did not know that man, did you?" inquired Benjamin, after
"No; but I concluded he was some business man of the town, who would
be interested to see a printing office successful, and so took pains
to introduce you to me."
"Then you will be surprised to learn who he is, when I tell you. That
was the father of Andrew Bradford, your neighbor, the printer. He
carries on printing in New York."
"Can that be?" exclaimed Keimer, astonished over the bit of news, and
startled at the thought of having made known his plans to a
"Yes, it is even so. That was Mr. Bradford, the New York printer,
father of Andrew Bradford, the printer of your town; and not his
"How in the world did he happen to come here with you?"
"I can tell you in a few words," replied Benjamin. "I called on him
for work in New York, and he directed me to his son here, who had just
lost a good hand by death. Very unexpectedly, on the next day, he
started for Philadelphia on horseback, and, when I called upon his
son, this morning, I found him there. His son had just hired a man;
and so he directed me to you, and his father offered to come and
"Well, all that is natural enough, but it is pretty hard on me,"
answered Keimer. "If I had known that was Bradford's father, I should
have kept my mouth shut, of course."
"You opened it pretty wide to him, and he took advantage of it, as
most men will do. But I guess no harm is done. He and his son both
appear to be friendly to you; they would not have proposed that I
should come here for work, if they had not been."
"That looks so, I must confess," said Keimer; "but I have learned one
good lesson from it: never to divulge secrets to a stranger. When I do
that again I shall not be in my right mind. But I wanted to ask you
about your Boston experience in a printing office; what office was you
"My brother's, James Franklin. He published a paper, the _New England
Courant_. He did a large business."
"Yes, our paper here gave some account of it. The editor had some
trouble with the Government, did he not?"
"Yes, and a serious trouble it was. He believed in the freedom of the
press, and the officials did not; so there was a collision. He
determined to fight the censorship of the press, and he was imprisoned
for it. Then I edited and published the paper in my own name."
"You run it!" exclaimed Keimer in a tone of wonder and unbelief.
"Yes, I run it,--without letting up one jot in attacking the
intolerant Government. It was a hot contest, but the common people,
true Americans, rallied to our support, and left the aristocratic
officials to toady to the English Government."
"A new order of things when a boy edits and publishes a paper in a
straight fight with Great Britain," was all that Keimer said, in
reply, evidently not believing a word of Benjamin's story about the
_Courant_. However, the more he talked with the new comer, the more he
was impressed with his intelligence and manly character. He found that
his clothes were the poorest part of him, that underneath his shabby
garments there dwelt a soul of large possessions and aspirations.
Benjamin learned at Keimer's office what a blessing it was to him to
have practised _doing things well_. Thoroughness in learning the
printer's art, as well as in studying the use of language and
composition, characterized him in Boston, as we have seen. Now he was
reaping the benefits of it. He handled the composing-stick so
dexterously, and answered every question so intelligently and
promptly, that Keimer saw at once he was really an expert. Many boys
are satisfied if they can only "pass muster." Their ambition rises no
higher than that. But not so with Benjamin. He sought to understand
the business to which he attended, and to do as well as possible the
work he undertook. The consequence was that he was a thorough workman,
and, in five minutes, he was able to satisfy Keimer of the fact. This
was greatly in his favor; and such a young man is never long out of
business. Doctor Johnson said, "What is worth doing at all, is worth
Samuel Budgett said, "In whatever calling a man is found, he ought to
strive to be the best in that calling; if only a shoe-black, he should
try to be the best shoe-black in the neighborhood." Budgett conducted
his immense business, in which he employed six hundred men, on this
principle. When a boy was introduced into his warehouse he was set to
straightening old nails. If he straightened nails well, he was
promoted to bag-mending; if he did not do it well, he was dismissed.
The thorough nail-straightener and bag-mender moved upwards into
larger and higher fields of work; and so the great English merchant
could boast of having the most efficient and faithful class of
employes in the British realm. Training them to do their best did it.
James Parton said to David Maydole, inventor of the modern hammer and
manufacturer of the best hammers in the world, "By this time you ought
to be able to make a pretty good hammer." Maydole replied, "No, I
can't. I can't make a pretty good hammer, I make the best that's
made." Once a party applied for several hammers, to whom Maydole was
indebted for some favor, and the party said to him, "You ought to make
my hammer a little better than the others." Maydole responded, "I
can't make any better ones. When I make a thing, I make it as well as
I can, no matter whom it is for." Doing his best every time led him on
to fortune. He never pushed his business. He never advertised. Making
the best hammer in the market created all the business he wanted.
"Your press is rather dilapidated, I see," remarked Benjamin to Mr.
Keimer, after he had looked it over. "Second-hand, I conclude?"
"Yes, I had to buy what I could get cheap, as I had little money to
begin with. I guess it can be fixed up to answer my purpose."
"That is so; it can be improved very much with little expense,"
"Do you understand a printing press well enough to repair it?"
"I can repair that one well enough; I see what is wanted. You can't do
good work with it as it is," Benjamin answered.
"Then I can employ you at once, and you may go right about putting it
in order if you please."
"I will do it," Benjamin replied in his emphatic way. "It is not a
long job, by any means."
"Perhaps you will have it done by the time I get the Elegy set up, and
then you may print it." Keimer's interest was deepening since he found
that the Boston printer-boy could repair a printing press. He was
getting more than he bargained for.
Benjamin went to work upon the old press, saying "I may as well go
about it at once, and work till dinner time. Mr. Bradford will expect
me back then; but I will keep at it until it is done."
"Well, I hope you will not expose any secrets as I did," remarked Mr.
Keimer, humorously. "Old Bradford will be on the lookout for capital,
no doubt. See that he don't make as much out of you as he did out of
Benjamin met the Bradfords, senior and junior, at the dinner table,
where they gave him a cordial welcome.
"How does Philadelphia compare with Boston?" inquired the senior
Bradford of him.
"It is smaller, and I can't tell yet whether it is duller or not. When
I have been here a week I can tell more about it."
"And what are your prospects at Keimer's?" inquired the junior
"Well, I have begun to repair his old press. It is a dilapidated
affair, and I told him that I could improve it very much."
"Do you understand that part of the business?"
"I understand it sufficiently to make what repairs that machine
requires just now."
"Then you can probably do some repairs for me," said the junior
Bradford "My press needs some tutoring."
"I shall be happy to be its tutor," replied Benjamin, with a smile. "I
shall finish Keimer's to-morrow, and then I will take yours in hand. I
shall be glad to do something to repay you for your kindness."
"You must have had good school advantages in Boston," remarked the
elder Bradford to him. "Your conversation indicates that you are
well-read and well-informed."
"But I am not indebted to the schools for it; I never went to school
but two years in my life. But I have studied and read as much as any
body of my age, in leisure hours and nights; and I have written more
for the press, probably, than any one of my age in Boston."
This last remark caused the Bradfords to look at each other with
wonder for a moment. But the senior broke the silence by saying:
"You write for the press? How is that?" His astonishment charged his
questions with peculiar emphasis.
"Yes, sir; I wrote much for nearly a year for the _New England
Courant_, one of the newspapers in Boston."
"And only seventeen years old now?"
"I was only sixteen when I wrote the most."
That was as far as Benjamin dared to disclose his history, lest he
might make trouble for himself. He had disclosed enough, however, to
set his host to thinking. Neither of the Bradfords really believed his
story about his writing for the press; and yet there was something
about him, composed of intelligence, refinement, and manliness, that
impressed them. The more they conversed with him, the more were they
satisfied that he was an uncommon youth. While that conviction
awakened their curiosity to know more of his history, it served, also,
to cause them to respect his boy-manhood, and so not to ply him with
too many or close questions. Thus Benjamin escaped the necessity of
exposing the objectionable part of his career, and left his good
friends wondering over the mysterious young printer they were
Benjamin repaired Keimer's press, and then attended to Bradford's,
before the Elegy was ready to be printed. By that time, Keimer had
engaged to print a pamphlet and do some other small jobs, so that he
needed Benjamin's services all the time.
"I shall want you right along, now, I think; but you must change your
boarding-place. I don't want you should board with a man who knows so
much about my business." And Keimer laughed as he made this last
"Of course, I shall change. I only intended to stay there until I got
work. Mr. Bradford kindly invited me to stay there till I found a
place, and I shall not take any advantage of his generosity. I shall
always be grateful to him for it."
"He was a good friend to you, a stranger," continued Keimer, "and I
would have you appreciate his friendship; but, in the circumstances, I
think another boarding-place is best."
"And now I can make a more respectable appearance," responded
Benjamin; "for my chest of clothes has come."
"The man who owns this building lives a short distance away, and I am
thinking I can get you boarded there; it will be a good place," added
"As you please; I can make myself at home any where. I am not used to
much style and luxury."
"His name is Read, and he has an interesting daughter of eighteen,
which may be some attraction to you." The last remark was intended
more for pleasantry than any thing.
"Work will have to be the chief attraction for me, whose fortune is
reduced to the last shilling," responded Benjamin. "It takes money to
pay respectful attention to young ladies; and, besides, my _forte_
does not lie in that direction."
The result was, that he went to board at Mr. Read's, the father of the
young lady who stood in the door when he passed on Sunday morning with
a roll of bread under each arm. His appearance was much improved by
this time, so that even Miss Read saw that he was an intelligent,
promising young man.
Benjamin received good wages, attended closely to his work, improved
his leisure moments by reading and study, as he did in Boston, and
spent his evenings in systematic mental culture.
"You appear to be fond of books," said Mr. Read to him. "I think you
must have enjoyed good advantages at home. Where is your home?"
"Boston. I was born there seventeen years ago."
"Only seventeen! I supposed you were older. Your parents living?"
"Yes, both of them, as good people as there are in Boston."
"Got brothers and sisters?"
"Plenty of them. I am the fifteenth child, and have two sisters
younger than I am; only one of the whole number is dead."
"You surprise me; yours must have been the largest family in Boston,"
continued Mr. Read. "I am sure we have no family as large as that in
Philadelphia. Your father ought to be worth some money to provide for
such a family."
"He is not, he is a poor man; so poor that he kept me in school less
than two years. I went into the shop to work with him when I was ten
years old, and have not been to school since. All my brothers were
apprenticed at ten or twelve years of age. I was a printer's
apprentice at twelve years of age."
"And what was your father's business, if I may be permitted to ask?
Your story is a very interesting one, and I want to know more about
"My father is a tallow-chandler. He emigrated to Boston in 1685, from
Banbury, England, where he worked at the trade of a dyer. There was no
room for that business in Boston, so he took up the business of
"But you did not work at the candle business long, if you became a
printer at twelve?"
"No; I disliked the business so thoroughly that I was ready to engage
in almost any thing if I could get out of that. The printer's trade
has afforded me excellent opportunities for reading and study, and I
"Well, printers are generally an intelligent class, and their pursuit
is highly respected. One of our printers in Philadelphia is an
ignorant man, and not very familiar with the business."
"I found that out some time ago," answered Benjamin; "and ignorance is
a great drawback to a person in any business whatever. There is no
need of a man being ignorant, so long as he can command fragments of
time to read and study. What I call my leisure hours are my most
profitable and enjoyable hours."
Mr. Read had already concluded that Benjamin was never so happy as
when he had a book in his hand, or was with some intelligent companion
conversing upon a useful topic. He had formed a high estimate of his
talents and character in the few weeks he had been a boarder at his
house. He saw in him a rising young man, and predicted for him a
remarkable career. His daughter, too, was as favorably impressed by
acquaintance with him. She learned that he was the youth, who cut such
a comical figure on the street, eating his roll of bread, on a Sunday
morning a short time before, and she could scarcely believe her eyes.
The transformation in him was almost too great for belief. That such a
shack in appearance should turn out to be the brightest and
best-informed young man who ever boarded at her father's, was an
impressive fact. She was gratified at his appearance, and enjoyed
conversation with him.
Benjamin was well pleased with his boarding-place, and enjoyed himself
with the family; especially with the daughter, who was rather a
graceful, good-looking, bright girl. Several young men, also, boarded
there, whom he made companions. These, with others, whose acquaintance
he made within three or four months, became the source of so much
pleasure to him that he fast became weaned from Boston.
As soon as Benjamin was fairly settled in business, he wrote to his
old friend, John Collins, of Boston, giving him a full account of his
trip to Philadelphia, his trials and successes, and closing by
charging him with secrecy as to his whereabouts.
He had given such unjustifiable scope to his resentment of his
brother's harsh treatment, and his father's final endorsement of that
brother, that he did not stop to think of the sorrow he was bringing
upon his parents by his wayward course. For the time being, his filial
affection appeared to be sacrificed to his revengeful spirit.
At that time, the printer's trade ranked higher, in public estimation,
than any other mechanical business. All editors in the country were
printers, and most of the printers were better educated than any other
artisans; hence their social standing was higher. On this account, a
talented and brilliant boy like Benjamin took a high rank at once, and
readily found access to the respect and confidence of all who made his
In due time, Benjamin received a letter from Collins, detailing the
excitement that followed his sudden disappearance from Boston, what
was said, the sorrow among his friends over his disgraceful exit, how
his brother was getting on, and many other matters about which he was
glad to hear. The letter closed by assuring him that no person in
Boston was apparently so ignorant of the runaway's whereabouts as
himself, from which he inferred that Collins was keeping the secret
While Benjamin was flattering himself that his friends were entirely
ignorant of his place of residence, except John Collins, his
brother-in-law, Robert Homes, "master of a sloop that traded between
Boston and Delaware," was at Newcastle, forty miles from Philadelphia.
There he met a citizen of the latter place, of whom he made inquiries
as to the business of the town. Among other things, he said:
"A young printer from Boston has settled there recently, who ranks
high as a workman and as a talented young man."
"Do you know his name?" inquired Captain Homes, startled by the
With an effort to conceal his surprise and interest, he asked:
"For whom does he work?"
"For Mr. Keimer, our new printer."
"Are you acquainted with him?"
"Not particularly; I have met him."
"Is he a young man of standing and good habits?"
"He is. It is said that he is very talented, and that he wrote for the
press in Boston before he came to Philadelphia."
"Is that so?" responded the captain, to conceal that he was any
acquaintance of his.
"Yes; and, as a matter of course, such a young man is much thought of.
He is not set up at all, but appears to be modest and unassuming. He
is very much liked by all."
"Do you think he means to make Philadelphia his home in the future?"
"That is what he intends, as I understand it." In this way, Captain
Homes gained whatever information he wanted, without disclosing that
Benjamin Franklin was his brother-in-law. Then he embraced the first
opportunity to write and forward to him the following letter from
"DEAR BROTHER,--I have just learned from a citizen of Philadelphia
that you reside in that town. It is the first knowledge that any of
us have had of your whereabouts since you ran away from Boston. You
can have no idea of the sorrow you caused the family by your unwise
and thoughtless act. It well-nigh broke your mother's heart, and
added several years to your father's appearance. But I write to
advise and entreat you to return to Boston. I am confident that
your parents, and all other friends, will receive you with open
arms, forgetting the past in their joy over your presence. They do
not know even that you are alive; and your return will be to them
as one risen from the dead. I trust that this letter will find you
well, and disposed to heed my advice, and go back to Boston. It
will be the best thing for you and the whole family. Let me hear
from you; direct your letter to this place; if sent at once it will
reach me here.
The reader may very properly infer that Benjamin was taken by surprise
by this letter. Now his friends would know where he was. How did
Captain Homes discover his place of residence? This question kept
uppermost in his mind. His letter did not tell. Benjamin pondered the
matter through the day, and finally resolved to answer it squarely and
promptly in the evening. That night he wrote the following:
"CAPTAIN ROBERT HOMES:
"_Dear Brother_,--I received your letter to-day, and it was a
genuine surprise to me. How in the world you discovered my
whereabouts is a mystery to me; but it is all well and will turn
out for the best, no doubt. To answer your letter affords me an
opportunity to state exactly the cause of my sudden departure from
Boston, which I do not think you understand. The sole cause of my
leaving was the unjust and harsh treatment of James. Instead of
seeing in me a brother, he saw only an apprentice, indentured to
him until I was twenty-one, over whom he held the iron rod of a
master, and from whom he expected the most servile obedience. At
times I may have been saucy and provoking, but it was when I was
receiving more than flesh and blood could bear. For, in letting
loose his violent temper, he not only lashed me unmercifully with
his tongue, but he resorted to blows; and you ought to know enough
of the Franklins by this time to understand that no one of them
would submit to such oppression. Then, to cap the climax, father,
who had always sided with me whenever our difficulties were laid
before him, now gave his decision, for some reason, in favor of
James. That was the last straw on the camel's back. Nothing but
harsh treatment by a master, who asserted his rights under the law,
awaited me. To remain was to be trod upon, and suffer, and become a
slave instead of a man. To leave was impossible, unless I left
clandestinely. For many days a mighty contest was waged in my soul
between love of home and escape from a bondage as bad as Negro
"After all I had done for James, in his great trouble with the
Government, that he should treat me, his own brother, as a menial
to be abused, seemed hard indeed. Under such a burden of trial,
scarcely knowing whither to look for a friend, I resolved to
escape, and I do not now regret the step. I knew that I should be
misjudged--that I should be called a runaway, and thought to be on
the road to ruin. But I am not. I mean to make the most of myself
possible. I am now among good friends, who kindly second all my
efforts at self-improvement, and my business prospects were never
so good. If industry, economy, temperance, honesty, and
perseverance will win, then I shall win; you may be sure of that.
Captain Homes was a strong, good man, used to roughing it in a
seafaring life; but when he read Benjamin's letter, tears stood in his
eyes, and his lips quivered with emotion, as his great heart went out
in sympathy for his wife's young brother.
"Read that letter," he said to Governor Keith, who was present, "and
then I will tell you about the author of it."
Governor Keith read it, with moistened eyes, although he was a
stranger to the writer and his romantic history.
"A touching letter," he remarked, returning it to the captain.
"The author of it is my wife's youngest brother, only a boy now."
"How old?" inquired the governor.
"Indeed, he must be a remarkable boy."
"He is. The most gifted boy ever raised in Boston."
"Then he ran away from Boston?"
"Yes; his father's family is a prominent one in the city, and the
eldest son is a printer, to whom this youngest son was apprenticed."
"I see now," responded the governor. "That explains the letter. And he
is settled now in Philadelphia?"
"He is. I accidentally learned where he was, a few days ago, and wrote
to him; and this letter is his answer. Let me tell you more about
him." And the captain rehearsed his connection with the _Courant_, as
correspondent and editor, dwelling upon his ability and power as an
independent thinker, capable of canvassing and writing upon almost any
"Remarkable, for one so young!" exclaimed the governor, after
listening to the detailed account. "Such a young man should be
encouraged in his business."
"So I think," responded the captain. "His letter has opened my eyes,
and I see now that he had good reason to run away. I believe that he
will make his mark, live where he may."
"Of course he will," replied the governor. "His success is certain,
only give him a chance. I will assist him to establish a printing
house of his own in Philadelphia, and he shall have the government
printing to do."
"He is abundantly qualified to do it, and I think any aid of that sort
you can give him will be for your interest as well as his. He is
reliable and will do his best." The captain said this in the honesty
of his heart, having a strong desire to see Benjamin rise.
"We have two printing houses in Philadelphia now; but they are poor
affairs," continued the governor. "Neither proprietor understands his
business, and one of them is very ignorant. I think that this young
man would take the lead at once."
"I think that I can secure the government printing of Delaware for
him," interrupted Colonel French, of Newcastle, who had listened to
the conversation with the deepest interest.
"Captain Homes, I will see your brother-in-law as soon as I return to
Philadelphia," added Governor Keith. "We must not let such a young man
be buried up in a one-horse printing house."
"I am going to Philadelphia with the governor," interjected Colonel
French, "and I will accompany him to see the young man."
"I thank you both very much, and I think that neither of you will ever
regret your decision." Captain Homes spoke so warmly and approvingly
that both governor and colonel felt reassured as they separated.
The foregoing discloses two good traits of Benjamin's character, which
the reader may consider with profit. First, he must have been very
observing. He understood the construction of a printing-press so well,
that he could put an old one into running order, young as he was, when
its proprietor was unable to do it. This is more remarkable, because
he was not obliged to study the mechanism of a printing-press in order
to work it. Many persons operate machines without understanding their
construction at all. But a class of minds are never satisfied until
they understand whatever commands their attention. They are
inquisitive, and wish to know the philosophy of things. It was so with
Benjamin; and this quality proved a valuable element of his success.
It was the secret of his discoveries and inventions in his manhood, as
we shall see, just as it was with Stephenson. As soon as he was
appointed plugman of an engine, at seventeen years of age, he began to
study its construction. In his leisure hours, he took it to pieces,
and put it together again several times, in order to understand it.
In the second place, Benjamin was not proud. "Pride goeth before
destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." He never came under
this condemnation. A sight of him passing up Market Street, with a
loaf of bread under each arm, while devouring the third one in his
hand, in apparel that was less comely than that of many modern tramps,
is proof that pride had no dominion over him. Many boys of seventeen,
in such poverty and apparel, would have avoided a public street, and
even a Quaker meetinghouse. But these were small matters to Benjamin.
He was thinking of greater things--employment and a livelihood. He had
a destiny to work out, and in working that he must do as he could, and
not as he would. He cared not for the laughs and jeers of those who
could dress better and live more sumptuously than himself, since it
was absolutely necessary for him to dress as he did in order "to make
his ends meet." He might have followed the example of some young men,
and incurred a debt, in order "to cut a dash," but he believed then,
as he wrote afterwards, that "lying rides on debt's back," and that it
is "better to go to bed supperless than to rise in debt"; or, as he
expressed himself in other maxims, "Those have a short Lent who owe
money to be paid at Easter," and "It is easier to build two chimneys
than to keep one in fuel."
GOING UP HIGHER.
Not many days after Benjamin replied to the letter of Captain Homes,
an unusual scene transpired at Keimer's office.
"There's Governor Keith on the other side of the street," said Keimer
to Benjamin, as they stood looking out of the window. "That tall man
with a gentleman walking with him."
"I see," replied Benjamin. "I should think they were coming here."
"Sure enough, they are crossing the street; they must be coming here;
I wonder what for." And Keimer ran down stairs to meet them before the
last words, as above, were off his lips. He supposed, of course, that
they were coming to see him. He met them politely at the door, for it
was not every day that he had the privilege of welcoming a governor to
his printing office, but was somewhat taken aback when the governor
"Does Benjamin Franklin work here?"
"He does; do you wish to see him?" Keimer was almost bewildered when
he answered. "What can the governor want of that boy?" he thought.
"Can I see him?"
"Certainly, walk in."
They walked in and took seats. Benjamin was called.
"This is the young man you wanted to see," said Keimer, introducing
him. "Governor Keith, Benjamin."
"I am very happy to make your acquaintance," responded the governor."
I met your brother-in-law, Captain Homes, at Newcastle, the other day,
and I promised to call and see you. And this is Colonel French, of
Newcastle, who, also, promised Captain Homes to call with me,"
introducing the colonel.
Benjamin was too much astonished to feel at ease. He would not have
been so amazed if an officer from Boston had called to arrest him as a
runaway. What the governor of Pennsylvania could want of him was
beyond his wildest dreams.
"If Mr. Keimer can spare you a short time, we would like you to go
with us for an interview, as we promised Captain Homes," added the
"I am at your service," Benjamin replied, collecting his scattered and
wondering thoughts. "Mr. Keimer can spare me, no doubt."
Within a few minutes, he was with the governor and Colonel French at a
tavern on the corner of Third Street, in a room by themselves.
"I am very glad to meet a young man of your abilities," remarked the
governor, "and I want to talk with you about setting up the printing
business for yourself in this town. Captain Homes told me of your
experience and ability, on this and other lines, and I am sure that
you can start a printing house of your own, and make a success of it."
"But I have nothing to start such a business with. It requires
"True, very true; but I think we can arrange that. Perhaps your father
could give you a start, judging from what Captain Homes says."
"I suppose that he might if he was so disposed; but I doubt whether he
would do it." Benjamin was querying, as he spoke, whether Captain
Homes had disclosed the fact of his being a runaway.
"I can write a letter to him, setting before him the excellent
opportunity for a printer here who understands the business as you do,
and advise him to render you aid." The governor did not hint that he
knew about his leaving home clandestinely.
"That is very kind on your part; but is it not true, that two printing
houses are as many as this town can support well?"
"It would be if they were first-class; but they are not. The
proprietors do not understand their business; they have poor
equipments, too; and their outfit does not enable them to do
"The governor will see that you have the government printing of
Pennsylvania to do," suggested Colonel French; "and I have no question
that I can secure the government printing of Delaware for you, also.
This will give you patronage as well as business."
"I thank you both very much for your kindness and confidence; and I
should like nothing better than to have a printing house of my own."
"How would this plan do?" continued the governor. "You return to
Boston by the first vessel that goes, taking a letter from me to your
father, in which I will lay the whole matter before him, so that he
can understand it, recommending that he set you up in business here."
"Well," replied Benjamin, after some hesitation, "the plan is good
enough; but I fear it will not work."
"It will do no hurt to try it," retorted the governor; "and you will
have an opportunity to see your friends, and they will have an
opportunity to see you."
"Yes, and I shall enjoy that; but I could not honorably leave Mr.
Keimer at present."
"It will not be necessary to leave him at present. It may be three
months before a vessel is billed for Boston. You can work for him at
present, notifying him that you shall return to Boston on a visit by
the first vessel that goes."
"Yes, I can do that," said Benjamin.
"You will not, of course, divulge your plan of establishing a printing
house of your own," suggested the governor. "Keep that a secret. Your
plan may not work, so that it will be wise to keep it a secret for the
"Well, I will defer to your judgment, and return to Boston by the
first vessel that sails. If the plan works, and Benjamin Franklin
should run a successful business house in this town, the credit of it
will belong to you."
They separated, with the understanding that Benjamin would return to
Boston by the first vessel sailing for that port. The governor and his
friend retired, and Benjamin returned to his work at the printing
The reader will make special note of this unusual scene. Here was the
governor of Pennsylvania and a leading public man of Delaware in
conference with a boy of seventeen years, about establishing a
printing house of his own in Philadelphia, with the promise of the
government patronage! What sort of a boy must he be? Not one of common
mould or capacity; but one, as the sequel will show, who shall rule in
the councils of the nation!
Keimer's curiosity was on tiptoe; he wanted to know what business
Governor Keith could have with his young employe.
"Why," replied Benjamin, "he met my brother-in-law, who is captain of
a sloop, at Newcastle, and learned of him that I was working in this
town, and so he called."
"All that may be; but governors are not in the habit of calling upon
boys as a matter of courtesy." And Keimer looked very unbelieving when
he said it.
"He told my brother-in-law that he should call, and my brother-in-law
urged him to do so. Colonel French was a personal friend, who came
with him; and he, too, promised Captain Homes that he would call."
"That is all right; but you are the first boy that ever lived in
Philadelphia, who has attracted the governor's patronage to himself."
Keimer was somewhat jocose, while, at the same time, he was evidently
suspicious that Benjamin was withholding the real object of the
"My brother-in-law had written to me to take the first opportunity I
could to make a trip to Boston to see my friends," continued Benjamin,
"and he talked with the governor about it. The governor thinks as he
"Not at present. If I go, I must go by sea, and not by land. Can't
afford to go by land; and I am told that vessels do not often sail
from here to Boston. I shall have to wait to get more money than I
have now before I go."
"Perhaps the governor will charter a vessel to take you there if you
ask him," suggested Keimer, who was evidently chagrined that the
governor called to see his employe instead of himself.
"Perhaps I shall ask him when I become more familiar with him,"
Benjamin replied, with a twinkle in his eye. "When I get to be a
member of his staff I may be cheeky enough to suggest it."
Keimer found that he could not make out much by quizzing his young
printer, so he dropped it and dismissed the subject for the time
Benjamin's thoughts were all the while concentrated on this unexpected
turn of affairs. It would not be strange if such interest in his
welfare by the highest officer in the state appealed to his vanity
somewhat, although Keimer could discover nothing of the kind. The
latter gentleman, however, concluded that he had a mysterious
character in his employ, and he was greatly puzzled to know just what
he was. He might be the son of some great man, for whose sake the
governor interested himself in his welfare. Possibly he might have
left Boston in some trouble, and his influential friends, together
with Captain Homes, induced the governor to look after him. Many
theories, by way of explanation, occupied his thoughts. At any rate,
he was an enigma to his employer, who was becoming more and more
interested in him. The governor's visit served to magnify his
abilities and worth in Keimer's view. He thought more of him than he
did before. He discovered more talent and efficiency in him. But he
could get little satisfaction out of him. Once in a while he would
indulge in a spasm of quizzing, and then he would subside into silent
musing over the curious boy who was setting type for him.
Benjamin continued to work early and late, interesting himself in
Keimer's business as if it were his own, thereby becoming an
indispensable assistant to him. But he embraced the first opportunity
to write to his boon companion in Boston, John Collins, and disclose
the unexpected change in his affairs, as follows:
"DEAR JOHN: You will be surprised to learn that I expect to make a
visit to Boston by the first vessel that sails for that port. It
may be three or four months before one sails, but look for me on
board. I will tell you how this new order of things was brought
about. My brother-in-law, Capt. Robert Homes, was at Newcastle,
Delaware, and found out, in some way, that I was living in
Philadelphia; and he wrote to me. I replied to his letter, and he
showed it to Governor Keith of Pennsylvania, who lives in this
town, and told him about me, and interested him in my welfare. So
the governor came to see me, and urged me to establish a printing
house of my own here, promising me the state printing, and offering
to write a letter to my father that I shall take with me when I go
to Boston, in which he will set forth the prospects of my success,
and urge him to furnish me with money to start. This is the
substance of the story, the details of which I will rehearse when I
see you. In the mean time continue to keep the secret. I suppose
that Captain Homes will disclose the place of my residence, so that
it will be a mystery to them no longer; but do not let any thing
get abroad from you. When we meet I shall have much to tell you.
Until then, good-bye.
"Your old friend,
Governor Keith sent for Benjamin to dine with him.
"I wanted to talk with you a little more about your visit to Boston,"
he remarked at the dinner-table. "How long will you be gone?"
"That will depend upon the voyage. There and back will occupy from
three to four weeks on the vessel. I do not care about spending over a
week in Boston. I shall want to get back as soon as I can to start in
"Does Mr. Keimer suspect that any thing in particular is on the tapis?
I did not know but my visit might awaken his curiosity to learn what
it was for."
"It did, and he plied me with questions in order to find out for some
time. Once in a while now, he is very inquisitive, evidently thinking
that I am withholding something from him. He is quite an intelligent
man, without any surplus of honesty."
"So I understand. Bradford is very ignorant, but honest; while Keimer
is bright and well-informed, but unscrupulous."
"That is about as near the truth as one can get," continued Benjamin.
"I have a pleasant time with Mr. Keimer, however, and have nothing to
complain of on that line."
"Can you give me any idea of the time it will take, after you return,
to get a printing house in running order?"
"Not exactly. If my plans succeed, and I bring back a printing-press
and materials with me, I think a month will be ample time to put the
whole thing in running order."
The enterprise was canvassed at the table, the governor conversing
with his young guest in the most familiar manner, dropping many
complimentary words. Whenever he wanted to see him thereafter, he
invited him to dine, which was quite often; all of which Benjamin
enjoyed very much. In his old age, referring to these interviews with
Governor Keith, Franklin said: "The governor sent for me now and then
to dine with him, which I considered a great honor; more particularly
as he conversed with me in the most affable, familiar, and friendly
A novelist would portray the advantages of running away from home when
representing Benjamin, the runaway, at the governor's table. If he had
remained in Boston, attacking the officials of the English Government
with his pen, the governor might have put him in prison, as he did his
brother. But Benjamin never justified the use he made of his legs at
that time--that is, he never excused it in his years of maturity. He
always spoke of it regretfully. Very few runaways possess as much
talent and character as he did, and few ever had so much cause for
running away; and here is found the only reason that the act was
overruled to his advantage.
At length a small vessel was announced to sail for Boston.
"I am ready to go in her," he said to Governor Keith. "She sails in
about a week."
"I am very glad," answered the governor; "you have waited long enough
for it. I will have my letter to your father ready in time; and I hope
your mission will be successful. Is there any thing more I can do for
"Nothing; I have been getting myself in readiness all along, so that I
have little to do now. As the time draws near I am very anxious to go.
My father and mother will be very happy in looking into my face
"And I think you will be as happy in looking into their faces again,"
responded the governor. "Captain Homes spoke in the highest terms of
your parents, and of your standing in Boston."
Benjamin wondered more than ever whether his brother, Homes, disclosed
the fact of his leaving home clandestinely to the governor. No words
were dropped to indicate that he did. But Governor Keith was a wise
man, and thought it was not best to divulge his acquaintance with that
part of the affair.
Benjamin improved the first opportunity to announce his departure to
"Going to see my parents," he said; "a vessel sails for Boston in
about a week."
"You have not been away from home long yet. I should think that you
might wait a year, at least."
"No, I can't wait longer, though I do not intend to stay long. I am
attached to Philadelphia, and I shall want to return as soon as I can
after letting my father and mother look me over a few days."
"Has the governor of the Massachusetts Province sent for you?" Keimer
asked jocosely. The fact was he could not get over Governor Keith's
interest in Benjamin, because he could not yet understand it. As the
weeks rolled on, his employee grew to be more and more an object of
"No; nor any body else," answered Benjamin. "I shall take the governor
by surprise, so that he will have no time to get up a reception. I
prefer the governor of Pennsylvania to the governor of Massachusetts."
If Keimer had known all the circumstances, he might have replied, "You
have reason to feel so; for the governor of Massachusetts would rather
see you in prison than running a printing house."
Benjamin purchased a nice suit of clothes, also a watch, before
starting on his trip; and then had quite a sum of pocket money to take
with him. He bade Mr. Keimer good-bye, took leave of the governor with
many thanks for his kindness, receiving from him a long, complimentary
letter to his father; nor did he forget to call upon the Bradford
family, to make known his purpose and thank them again for their
hospitality; and, of course, Mr. Read and family received a good share
of his thankfulness, especially the daughter, in whom Benjamin had
become quite interested.
Once on board the vessel, under way, Benjamin began to reflect upon
his novel experiences. It appeared to him somewhat like a dream. He
could hardly realize that he was on his way back to his home, by the
governor's patronage. He took out the governor's letter to his father
and read it. He found that it was very complimentary to himself, fully
as much so as he had expected; and the prospects of a new printing
house, under his care, were set forth strongly. He had scarcely
finished reading the letter, when the vessel struck on a shoal; for
they were not out of the bay yet. She sprung a leak, and there was
considerable excitement on board before the crew could remedy the
"A hard storm is near by," said the captain. "You will have a rough
passage this time, young man," addressing Benjamin.
"Well, I am used to it; I have encountered as many storms as any body
of my age," replied Benjamin figuratively, which the captain did not
"Then you have followed the sea, have you?"
"No; I have followed the land mostly; but there are hard storms on the
land, are there not?"
"Of course"; and the captain thought only of rain storms and snow
storms when he answered.
"All I meant was," added Benjamin by way of explanation, "that I have
had rather of a rough life so far; have seen a good deal of trouble
for one of my years; and have rather got accustomed to rough usage. A
storm at sea will only vary the experience a little. I think I can
"You will have to stand it any way. Not much chance to choose when a
storm overtakes us out to sea. If I am any judge of weather, a
terrible storm is brewing, and it will be on us in a hurry."
"Well, I like the water; I meant to have become a sailor once, but my
father put his veto on it. If I had been allowed my own way, I should
have been serving before the mast now." Benjamin never spoke truer
words than these.
"Hard life," responded the captain; "if I could live my life over
again I should chose any thing on land rather than the best on the
sea. I would not command a vessel another day, if there was any thing
else I could do; but this is all I know."
They had scarcely emerged from the bay when the storm burst upon them.
It was the beginning of a long, violent, tempestuous spell of weather,
such as mariners encounter on the sea; a new and exciting experience
"I have heard a great deal about storms at sea, and----"
"And you will _see_ one now," interrupted the captain. "What you have
_heard_ about it gives you a poor idea of the reality, compared with
"I confess to a kind of desire to see a real hard one," answered
Benjamin coolly. "If I should be frightened half out of my wits, I
shall be as well off as the rest of you."
"The vessel is leaking badly," cried out one of the crew.
"Man the pumps," replied the captain. "Enough for all hands to do
"Including me," responded Benjamin. "I can do as much as any of you at
the pump," and he went to work with the crew.
Suffice it to say, that the storm continued for days, tossing their
small craft about like a shell, keeping all hands busy, night and day,
sometimes the sea threatening to swallow the vessel and all it
contained in its hungry maw. The vessel was two weeks on its way to
Boston, encountering stormy weather nearly the whole time. Most of the
voyage the leaky craft was kept from sinking by pumping, in which
Benjamin took his turn, proving himself as efficient as any one of the
crew; and he was as cool and self-possessed as any one of the number.
At the end of two weeks they sailed into Boston harbor; and Benjamin
was at home.
THE SURPRISE, AND ITS RESULTS.
Benjamin hastened to the corner of Hanover and Union Streets, where
the sign of the familiar blue ball hung, and entered with a fluttering
"Benjamin!" exclaimed his father, "can that be you?" and he grasped
one of his hands in both of his. "How glad I am to see you!"
"No more glad than I am to see you," responded the son, shaking his
father's hand heartily. "I am glad to get home."
The words were scarcely off his tongue when his mother appeared upon
And his mother threw her arms about his neck, weeping tears of joy.
Benjamin wept, too. He began to realize what months of agony his
absence had caused the woman who bore him.
"Can it be you, my son? I have mourned for you as dead," she said, as
soon as she could command her feelings. "Where have you been?"
"In Philadelphia. Has not Captain Homes told you where I was?"
"Not a word from him about it."
"He wrote to me from Newcastle three months ago, and I replied to his
letter. I supposed that you had heard all about it before this time."
"We have not heard the least thing from you since you left," said his
father; "and they have been seven very long and painful months."
"How painful, Benjamin, you can never know," added his mother.
"Sometimes it has seemed as if my old heart would break with grief;
but I have tried to cast my burden on the Lord. If you had staid at
home and died, my sorrow could not have been so great."
"Let it end now," replied Benjamin, with a smile, "for I am here
"Yes, I thank my God, for 'this my son was dead, and is alive again;
he was lost, and is found.'" And his mother came almost as near to
death with joy, as she had been before with sorrow.
They sat down together, when Benjamin rehearsed his experience since
leaving Boston, not omitting to state the cause of his sudden
departure, and the reason of his return. And then he put the letter of
Governor Keith into his father's hand.
"How is James? I suppose he is at the printing office? I must go to
Benjamin's words and tone of speech indicated only good will towards
"I am glad to hear you say that, Benjamin. It has grieved me terribly
that he should treat you so unbrotherly; I do hope that you will now
be reconciled to each other." His mother spoke with much feeling.
"I trust we shall; I am ready to forgive and forget. I have learned a
good lesson from experience since leaving Boston."
So saying, he started for the printing office, not knowing what sort
of a reception awaited him there He hoped for the best, however.
"James!" He extended his hand as he spoke. James would not have been
more astonished over one who rose from the dead, but he took his hand
in a cold, reserved sort of a way, merely saying:
After surveying him from head to foot a few moments, he turned back to
his work again, without another word. The act pierced Benjamin's
heart, it was so unkind and cruel. But soon he rose above the
situation, and seemed to say, by actions, "I can stand it if you can."
The journeymen were delighted to see him. Leaving their work, they
pressed around him with a whole catechism of questions.
"Where have you been, Ben?"
"What kind of a place is it?"
"It is a fine place; I like it better than Boston."
"Yes; very soon, too. No place like that for the printing business."
"Yes, better pay than in Boston."
"How large is the place?"
"Seven thousand inhabitants; smaller than Boston, but smarter."
"What kind of money do you have there?"
There was no established currency in the country at that time, and
paper money only was used in Boston. His interrogator wanted to know
what they used in Philadelphia.
"They use that," replied Benjamin, taking from his pocket nearly five
pounds sterling in silver and laying it on the table. "Rather heavier
stuff to carry than your Boston paper money."
"It looks as if you had struck a silver mine, Ben," remarked one.
"Some lucky hit, Ben," said another. "The printing business bring you
"No other did. I was a printer when I left, and I am now, and I expect
to be in the future. And, what is more, I have no desire for another
"You sport a watch, I see," said one of the number.
"Yes, such as it is; a good companion, though."
"Let us see it," one suggested.
"You can." And Benjamin passed it to him, and all examined it.
"Can't afford such luxuries in Boston," one printer remarked.
"It is not a luxury by any means; it is a necessity," replied
Benjamin. "I should not know how to get along without a watch now."
"Well, Ben, you can afford to have a watch," added one; "for you can
live on bread and water, and never want a day of pleasure, and never
"And he can afford to treat us all, since he has fared so well,"
suggested one of the men.
"I always did treat you well, and always intend to," was Benjamin's
answer, as if he did not understand that treating with intoxicating
liquors was meant.
"That is so, Ben; but now just treat us with something stronger than
water, for old acquaintance' sake."
At that time the use of intoxicating liquors was almost universal.
Benjamin did not use them, and, once in a while was found a person who
did not. Most people were habitual drinkers, and there was little or
no opposition to the custom; and the habit of treating was general.
"There is a dollar," replied Benjamin, throwing out a dollar in
silver. "Take that and drink what you want for old acquaintance'
Replacing his watch and money, he left the office with the promise to
come around again. While this interview with the men was going on,
James would occasionally look up from his work "grim and sullen," as
Benjamin said, evidently as unreconciled to his brother as ever. The
next day James said to his father and mother, at their house:
"It was an insult. He meant to insult me when he came to the office."
"No, James," replied his mother; "Benjamin meant no such thing. He
told us that he was ready to forgive and forget."
"He has a poor way of showing it, then," retorted James, who was too
revengeful to be reasonable.
"Well, you are brothers," interrupted his father, "and you should act
as brothers toward each other. It has a bad look for one brother to be
resentful toward another."
"And it not only has the _look_" added his mother, "but it is a most
wicked state of heart to cherish. You will never prosper, James, so
long as you treat your brother so; and you never ought to prosper."
Mrs. Franklin spoke with great plainness. She had never justified
James at all in his treatment of Benjamin; and now that the former was
adding injury to injury by falsely accusing the latter, she could not
suppress her feelings. She magnified the severity of her words, by
"Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in
danger of the judgment."
"My advice to you, James, is to let the dead past bury the dead. It
will do no good to revive old memories. Make the future as bright as
you can--that is the only wise course. I am quite sure that Benjamin
will meet you more than half way, in erasing old scores."
Mr. Franklin spoke this with much feeling as he turned away to his
work. James continued to be resentful, and failed to reduce his
father's counsel to practice.
Benjamin soon found his old friend, John Collins; and there was mutual
satisfaction in their meeting. As soon, however, as the first pleasure
of meeting was over, Benjamin discovered that his friend had become
intemperate, and he was both surprised and grieved. However, he
gratified John with a detailed account of his experience, from the
time they separated, not omitting a glowing description of his
prospects in Philadelphia.
"How soon will you return?" John inquired.
"I want to leave here within two weeks if I can. I ought not to stay
but a week."
"How will it do for me to return with you?"
"I think it will do well if you stick closely to business. That is the
only way we can succeed in any thing."
"I can do that. Work never hurt me, or any thing else." John did not
take the hint in Benjamin's last remark.
"But strong drink has hurt a great many. I should never expect to
succeed in any thing if I used it as many do."
"Nor I," answered John, who was blind to his own danger, as all
intemperate men are.
"We have no need of any such beverage at all," continued Benjamin. "I
discard it entirely now, as you know that I did when I lived here in
Boston. Water is the best beverage for us both."
"You may be right, Ben; you are, generally. But are you not a little
odd in discarding what nearly every one uses?" John was trying to find
an excuse for himself.
"Better be odd than to be disqualified for business. You know, as well
as I do, that rum disqualifies more men for business than all other
evils put together. Once you were of my opinion, John; but your habits
have been changing your opinion."
"Well, that is neither here nor there," replied John, who found that
Benjamin was becoming rather personal. "What do you think of my going
to Philadelphia with you?"
"If your habits now are what your personal appearance indicates, you
will not succeed in Philadelphia any better than you can in Boston. An
intemperate man is a failure anywhere."
"Then you don't think I am good enough to go back with you?" said
John, with a degree of warmth.
"I did not say so, John. To tell you the plain truth, I am shocked at
the change drink has wrought in your appearance. You are fast becoming
a wreck, I should say; and I don't want a wreck of a friend on my
"Then you don't want I should go with you?"
"Not if you continue to drink as you do now. Sober John Collins I
should delight to have accompany me, especially if he looks upon
strong drink as the enemy of mankind. I am your friend now, as much as
ever; but I am disappointed, and even shocked, by your appearance. You
are fast becoming a wreck."
"You are complimentary, Ben, I must confess; but I can't say that you
are wrong. You have been about right so far in life; perhaps your
views are correct about drink."
"I don't ask you to accept my views; but I entreat you to let strong
drink alone for your own sake, and my sake, too. If you can give a
wide berth to all sorts of intoxicating liquors, as I do, I should be
delighted to have you return to Philadelphia with me."
"That is, become a water-drinker, you mean, Ben?"
"I did not say so; become a reasonable being and not indulge to
excess. I do not ask any body to live exactly as I do, though I
believe that every person who discards liquors will be better off."
At that day, when the temperance cause was not born, and the use of
intoxicants was universal, it was generally believed that moderate
drinking could be followed without leading to excessive drinking. It
is plain that Benjamin had that idea. For himself, he practised entire
abstinence from intoxicants, because he thought it was better for him.
Another person might drink moderately, in his view, and be just as
well off. But intemperance he abhorred, and he thought that every body
else ought to abhor it.
"I will tell you what it is, Ben," continued John. "There is some
sense in what you say; you did not leave it all in Philadelphia when
you came away, that is sure. I want to go back with you badly; and I
will think it over."
"That is it, John. Sober John Collins is an old friend of mine, and I
shall enjoy his society in Philadelphia, or any other part of the
world. Think it over, and I will see you again."
Mr. Franklin read the letter of Governor Keith over and over. It was a
good letter to cheer a father's heart, if it was genuine. Evidently he
had some doubts whether the affair was all right. While he was
querying about the genuineness of the letter from Governor Keith,
Captain Homes arrived in Boston, and first of all called upon his
"Benjamin is here," said Mr. Franklin, "and according to his story, he
has a good prospect before him in Philadelphia. And here is a letter
from Sir William Keith, governor of Pennsylvania, that he brought with
him"; and he passed the letter to the captain.
"I met Governor Keith at Newcastle, and showed him a letter I received
from Benjamin," replied Captain Homes, "which satisfied me that he had
more reason than I had supposed for running away. I interested the
governor in his welfare. On his return to Philadelphia, after having
met Benjamin, he wrote to me how much pleased he was with him, and
what he had proposed."
Captain Homes read the governor's letter through and remarked, "That
is substantially what he wrote to me; and it appears to me that there
is a good opening for him in Philadelphia."
"You think that Sir William Keith is reliable, do you?"
"He ought to be. I can't think of any reason why a man in his position
should be saying and doing what he don't mean."
"Nor I. And yet it seems almost strange that he should favor a boy of
eighteen engaging in such an enterprise, without money and without
"You are wrong, father," answered the captain; "very few young men
twenty-two years of age have had the experience he has had. He has
occupied positions and met emergencies every time with the promptness
and ability of one ten years older."
"That may be so. I think it is so; and it gives me great pleasure that
Sir William Keith can write as he does about him. But it can't be
expected that a boy of eighteen can have the judgment and wisdom to
conduct business for himself, as he will at twenty-two."
"I think it can be expected, and should be expected, if these
qualities are as fully developed at eighteen as they are in other
young men at twenty-two." The captain was emphatic in his endorsement
This conversation was interrupted by Benjamin's appearance. He was
delighted to meet Captain Homes, and this gentleman was delighted to
meet him. The satisfaction was mutual. One of the first questions that
Benjamin asked was:
"How did you learn that I was living in Philadelphia?"
"From a citizen of that town, of whom I was inquiring about the
business of the place. Incidentally he spoke of a young printer from
Boston, who had come there. I met him in Newcastle. He even knew your
"'Murder will out' is an old maxim that finds confirmation in my
case," responded Benjamin. "But it is all for the best, I think. I am
glad that the way was opened for me to return to Boston."
"I have just read Governor Keith's letter to your father, and I hope
that he will be able to give you a start in Philadelphia." The captain
said this in the presence of Mr. Franklin.
While Mr. Franklin was considering the proposition contained in
Governor Keith's letter, Benjamin was busy in calling upon old friends
and visiting old resorts. He had been absent seven months, and, in
that time, had added two or three times that number of months to his
personal appearance. He appeared like a young man twenty-one years of
age, and his new apparel imparted to him a grace and comeliness that
he lacked when he left Boston. He had developed into a handsome,
gentlemanly, intelligent, and witty young man.
It was during this visit to Boston that he called upon Dr. Increase
Mather, to whose preaching he listened when a resident of the town.
The doctor received him cordially and invited him into his library,
where they chatted for some time about books, Philadelphia, and other
matters. When Benjamin arose to go, the doctor said:
"Come this way, and I will show you a nearer way out," pointing to a
narrow passage with a beam crossing it overhead. They were still
talking, the doctor following behind Benjamin, when the latter turned
partly about to speak to the former.
"_Stoop! Stoop_!" shouted the doctor.
Benjamin did not understand what he meant until his head struck the
beam overhead with considerable force.
"There," said the doctor, laughing, "you are young and have the world
before you; stoop as you go through it, and you may miss many hard
Nearly seventy years afterwards the recipient of this counsel wrote as
"This advice, thus beaten into my head, has frequently been of use
to me; and I often think of it when I see pride mortified, and
misfortunes brought upon people by carrying their heads too high."
John Collins was a clerk in the post-office. He revolved the matter of
going to Philadelphia with Benjamin a sober youth, or remaining in
Boston a drunken one. The more he pondered the more he was inclined to
accept Benjamin's advice. The appeal from Collins drunk to Collins
sober finally met his approval.
"I have decided to go with you," he said to Benjamin, the next time
"Glad to hear it, John, if you take my advice and leave the
drink-habit in Boston. I shall enjoy your company hugely."
"You shall have it. I have given up my position in the post-office,
and am packing up now. I want to carry my books with the rest of my
"And I shall take my books this time. I shall ship to New York, where
I have some business, and thence to Philadelphia."
"And I want to go by the way of Providence, Rhode Island, to visit
friends, and will meet you in New York," responded John.
"Agreed; but remember, John, that you and I are going to steer clear
of strong drink. Give it a wide berth, and the way is open before you
"I see it, and mean to act accordingly." John really meant what he
said, but the poor fellow did not understand how weak he was. Neither
was Benjamin aware that the drink habit was fastened upon him so
Mr. Franklin had taken a plenty of time to consider the advice of
Governor Keith, and Benjamin was getting uneasy to return.
"I have considered the matter long and carefully," said Mr. Franklin
to Benjamin, "having a desire to aid you if possible; but have come to
the conclusion, finally, that I can not do it at present."
"I told Governor Keith that I doubted whether you would assist me now,
so that your conclusion is not altogether unexpected." Benjamin's
reply was cool--almost indifferent.
"When you become twenty-one years of age, and need assistance to start
in business for yourself, I will gladly render it; but it is hardly
safe for a boy of eighteen to engage in such an enterprise. Get more
experience." These words were indicative of Mr. Franklin's caution.
"Well, I have no great desire to rule a printing house. I am content
to serve," and these words expressed Benjamin's real feelings.
"At the same time," continued his father, "I am highly gratified that
you have conducted yourself so well as to gain the good opinion of
even the governor. I trust that you will continue to conduct yourself
with propriety. At twenty-one you will save money enough to set up
business for yourself, if your economy holds out."
"I think it will," responded Benjamin. "My wants are few, and so my
expenses are small. And I like work as well as ever."
"There is one thing I hope you will avoid, Benjamin. You will, no
doubt, be writing for the public press, as you did here. My advice is
to avoid lampooning and libeling. You erred in that way here, and
furnished occasion for just and severe criticism."
"We have not time to discuss that matter now," answered Benjamin; "but
if I were to live my life over again, and edit the _Courant_ in the
same circumstances, I should repeat the same thing. But for that fight
there would be a censorship over the press of Boston to-day."
"Possibly," rejoined his father; "but I think there is a wiser course.
You must live and learn."
"I regret exceedingly that James can not be reconciled to you,"
interrupted his mother. "He is indulging a very bad spirit, and my
prayer is that he may see the folly of it, before you leave, and be at
peace with you."
"I met him more than half way," replied Benjamin, "and he seemed to
stand aloof all the more. Whenever he returns to reason he will find
me ready and waiting to forget the past."
"It is so painful to see brothers disagree!" And a deep, doleful sigh
escaped her heart as his mother said it.
Benjamin's separation from his parents was tender and affectionate.
They scarcely expected to see his face again on this side of the
River, and they presented him with several gifts as tokens of their
undying love. With their sincere blessing upon him he turned away from
the old home, where so many of his happiest hours had been spent, and,
wiping unbidden tears from his eyes, found himself again out on the
world's great highway alone, seeking his fortune.
HIS RETURN, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.
John left Boston two or three days before Benjamin. The sloop in which
Benjamin sailed stopped at Newport, where his brother John lived,
affording him the opportunity to visit him. John was well-nigh
overcome by the sight of Benjamin, for whom he ever had the most
sincere affection. Their meeting was as glad to him as it was
unexpected. There he met a Mr. Vernon, who said:
"I have a bill of thirty-five pounds currency in New York, which I
have no doubt can be collected readily--could you collect it for me?"
"I will do it with pleasure," replied Benjamin.
"You can collect and keep it until I write what disposition to make of
it. I am not quite certain just now."
"Very well; I will hold it subject to your direction."
"And I will give you an order for the money, which will be necessary."
"Yes, I suppose that is the business way."
His stay in Newport was very brief. On returning to the sloop in
season to sail, he found that several passengers had been taken on
board from that town. Among them was a motherly sort of a Quaker lady,
and, also, two young women traveling together. Benjamin was a polite
young man, and sought to be of service to them. The old Quaker lady
was attended by two servants, yet Benjamin found an opportunity to be
of some service to her, and she appreciated his kindness. Nor was he
indifferent towards the two young women. He made their acquaintance,
and showed them some attention; and they, in turn, showed him
attention, with interest. The Quaker lady looked on, understanding the
situation better than he did; and finally she called him aside, by
some kind of a motion, and said:
"Young man, beware of those girls, or they will lead you astray."
"How so?" inquired Benjamin, considerably surprised.
"They are bad girls, and thee is not much acquainted with the ways of
"You are right, madam; I am not much acquainted with the women world,
and I dare say they might easily lead me astray." Benjamin did not
exactly believe what the Quakeress said, but he was a little given to
humor, and so he spoke as he did.
"It is a serious matter, young man; thee may depend on that. I know
that they are bad girls by their actions. They mean to set a snare for
"Well, I assure you that I will not fall into it. They have not caught
"And I hope they won't," added the good lady. "If I were in your place
I would cut their acquaintance at once. And she stated some things she
had observed of their acts, and a remark one of them made, all of
which convinced Benjamin that she was right.
"I thank you for your interest," said Benjamin "I will not keep up an
acquaintance with them, but will follow your advice."
The good lady kept her eye on Benjamin, and so did the girls. The
latter plied their arts with considerable ingenuity to lure him on,
but his eyes were opened now, and he avoided them as much as he could.
Before reaching New York, however, the girls managed to inform him
where they lived, and gave him a very pressing invitation to call. The
outcome was as follows, given in his own language, as related in his
"When we arrived at New York, they told me where they lived, and
invited me to come and see them; but I avoided it, and it was well I
did. For the next day the captain missed a silver spoon and some other
things, that had been taken out of his cabin, and, knowing that these
were a couple of strumpets, he got a warrant to search their lodgings,
found the stolen goods, and had the thieves punished. So, though we
had escaped a sunken rock, which we scraped upon in the passage, I
thought this escape of rather more importance to me."
When Benjamin arrived in New York, John Collins was waiting there for
him, but it was John Collins drunk.
"Waitin' for you, Ben, old fellow," said John, patting him on the
back, too much under the power of drink to know exactly what the said
or did. "Goin' to Philadelphy; come on."
Benjamin was taken by surprise, and scarcely knew what to say.
Rallying himself, however, he replied:
"You are not the John Collins I invited to accompany me to
Philadelphia. I don't wish for _your_ company."
"You are joking, Ben, old fellow"; and another pat on his back.
"I invited John Collins _sober_ to go to Philadelphia with me; you are
John Collins _drunk_."
"Complimentary again," answered John, with a show of temper.
"It is time," retorted Benjamin, "It is putting me into an
embarrassing situation to be tied to a drunken companion. I rather be
"Don't see how I can 'scuse you, Ben. It is too late now." And the
boozy fellow appeared not to imagine that he was making a fool of
On reaching John's boarding place, the landlord said:
"He has been drunk ever since he reached New York; and he has gambled,
too, I judge."
"What makes you think he has gambled?"
"Because he is out of money now; every cent he had is gone, I think."
"And he owes you for board and lodgings?"
"Yes; he has not paid me any thing. His appetite is complete master of
"Well, I scarcely know what to do," remarked Benjamin thoughtfully;
and he rehearsed to the inn-keeper the circumstances of his
connection with John, not omitting to repeat his fair promises.
"Promises!" retorted the landlord. "What does he care for promises! A
fellow with no more control over his appetite than he has don't care
for any thing. He's a goner, if I am any judge."
Benjamin embraced the first opportunity to canvass the matter with
John; and, from his own account, he was satisfied that the case was
full as bad as the landlord had represented. John had not a cent left,
and he was in a maudlin state of mind, such as Benjamin did not
observe in Boston. His self-respect was gone, and he appeared to glory
in his shame.
While Benjamin was considering what to do, and attending to some
matters of business, particularly collecting the thirty-five pounds
for Mr. Vernon, the captain of the sloop came to him, saying:
"Governor Burnet wants to see you."
"Who is Governor Burnet, that he should want to see me?" responded
Benjamin in surprise. One governor had been after him, and now that
another was seeking his patronage was almost too much to believe.
"Governor of New York," answered the captain. "I had some business
with him, and I happened to say that a passenger on board my sloop had
a large quantity of books with him; and this interested him so much
that he wanted I should bring you to his house."
"I will go," replied Benjamin; "and I must go at once if I go at all."
They posted off, Benjamin querying on the way whether the governor of
New York would prove as friendly to him as the governor of
It was a pleasant call he had upon the governor. This dignitary gave
him a cordial welcome, took him into his library, conversed with him
about books and authors, complimented him for his love of learning and
his evident high aims, and invited him to call whenever he should
visit New York. Benjamin began to think that governors had a
particular passion for him; and what little vanity he possessed became
inflated. Many years thereafter, referring to the experience, he said:
"This was the second governor who had done me the honor to take notice
of me; and, for a poor boy like me, it was very pleasing." If he had
been as foolish as some youth, and some men, too, he would have
concluded that it pays to run away, since the only boy that two
governors were known to patronize especially was a runaway. But we
repeat what we have said before, that Benjamin, the wise son, never
concluded that it pays to run away from home. He met with some
pleasant experiences, but they came, not through his runaway
qualities, but through his aspiring and noble aims.
Collins was not too drunk to understand that Benjamin went to see the
governor by invitation, and he was on tiptoe to learn what it all
"Been to see the governor, hey?" he said.
"Yes; and I should have taken you if you had not been drunk."
"Good on you, Ben; you'll be governor yourself yet." And John laughed
at his own suggestion as only a silly drinker will.
"_You_ will not, John, unless you change your course. I have a mind to
leave you here in New York; then I shall not be disgraced by you in
Philadelphia. If you can't keep sober for your own sake nor mine, I
want nothing more to do with you."
This was a revelation to John. He had not dreamed of being left
penniless and friendless in New York. So he was ready to make promises
of the most flattering kind, in order to proceed with Benjamin to
"But you promised me as squarely as possible in Boston that you would
not drink any more," continued Benjamin. "Your promise is not worth
any thing to me, when it is worth nothing to you; and it is not worth
as much to you as a glass of brandy. I am tempted to leave you and all
your truck in the sloop here in New York."
John begged and entreated Benjamin not to desert him now, and promised
by all that was great and good that he would stop drinking and lead a
sober life. In the circumstances, Benjamin could scarcely do otherwise
than to pay his bill at the inn and take him along with him, though he
very reluctantly decided to do so. Having collected the thirty-five
pounds for Mr. Vernon, paid John's bill, and transacted some other
business, by the time the sloop was ready to sail, they proceeded to
There is no record preserved of his experience on the sloop between
New York and Philadelphia, except a paragraph in a letter written by
Doctor Franklin to Doctor Priestley, in 1780, when the former was
seventy-four years of age. He related the experience in order to
illustrate the truth, "that all situations in life have their
inconveniences." The paragraph is as follows:
"In my youth, I was passenger in a little sloop, descending the river
Delaware. There being no wind, we were obliged, when the ebb was
spent, to cast anchor and wait for the next. The heat of the sun on
the vessel was excessive, the company strangers to me, and not very
agreeable. Near the river-side I saw what I took to be a pleasant
green meadow, in the middle of which was a large shady tree, where, it
struck my fancy, I could sit and read (having a book in my pocket),
and pass the time agreeably till the tide turned. I therefore
prevailed with the captain to put me ashore. Being landed, I found the
greatest part of my meadow was really a marsh, in crossing which, to
come at my tree, I was up to my knees in mire; and I had not placed
myself under its shade five minutes, before the mosquitoes in swarms
found me out, attacked my legs, hands, and face, and made my reading
and my rest impossible; so that I returned to the beach, and called
for the boat to come and take me on board again, where I was obliged
to bear the heat I had strove to quit, and also the laugh of the
company. Similar cases in the affairs of life have since frequently
fallen under my observation."
In these modern days, it would be said that, when Benjamin arrived in
Philadelphia, he "had an elephant on his hands." The most
unmanageable and dangerous sort of an elephant on one's hands is a
dissolute friend. Benjamin scarcely knew what to do with John. It
troubled him exceedingly. But he was wont to make the best of
everything, and so he did in this case.
He took John with him to his boarding place, promising to pay his
bills until he could find work in some counting-room. John was well
qualified for such business, and Benjamin supposed that he could
readily find a situation. His estimate of Collins, before and after
he began to drink to excess, is given by his own pen, as follows:
"At New York I found my friend Collins, who had arrived there some
time before me. We had been intimate from children, and had read the
same books together; but he had the advantage of more time for reading
and studying, and a wonderful genius for mathematical learning, in
which he far outstripped me. While I lived in Boston, most of my
hours of leisure for conversation were spent with him, and he
continued a sober as well as industrious lad; was much respected for
his learning by several of the clergy and other gentlemen, and seemed
to promise making a good figure in life. But, during my absence, he
had acquired a habit of drinking brandy and I found by his own
account, as well as that of others, that he had been drunk every day
since his arrival at New York, and behaved himself in a very
extravagant manner. He had gamed, too, and lost his money, so that I
was obliged to discharge his lodgings, and defray his expenses on the
road and at Philadelphia; which proved a great burden to me."
Benjamin called upon Governor Keith as soon as possible, with a letter
from his father, in which the governor was thanked and praised for his
kindness to his son.
"Your father is too cautious," remarked the governor, after reading
the letter. "Some young men are better qualified to do business for
themselves at eighteen than others are at twenty-one."
"He said that he would assist me at twenty-one if I should need
assistance," replied Benjamin.
"Yes; he says so in this letter. But I think you will be established
in a good business three years from now, and need no help. Some aid
now will do more for you than at any future time."
"I dare say that is true; but, as father declines to do it, that ends
the matter, I suppose."