Part 7 out of 8
Benjamin, no doubt, was more interested to return to America on
account of his relation to Miss Deborah Read. He had written to her
but once, and that was directly after he began work at Palmer's
printing house. He told her of Keith's fraud practised upon him,
leaving him in London a stranger and nearly penniless, so that he
could not return until he had earned money enough to pay his passage.
He did not write to her again, and his conscience had condemned him,
so that, at times, he dwelt sadly upon his unfaithfulness. He
neglected to write for so long a time, that he became ashamed to write
at all; and so the correspondence dropped. Yet, he did not forget Miss
Read, nor cast her off; and he blamed himself every time his thoughts
dwelt upon his sin of omission.
Benjamin's employer was very sorry to part with him.
"I am glad to have you as long as I have," he said, "but I wish you
would stay. I feel safe to commit work or business to your care. If
ever I can do you a favor, let me know, and I will only be too glad to
"I thank you for your confidence. I have done the best for you I
could, as I always mean to do for every employer. I regret to leave
you, and my companions with whom I have spent so many hours. But I
have a strong desire to return home." Benjamin spoke with considerable
"That is an honorable desire," answered Mr. Watts, "and I have no
doubt that you will be prospered in gratifying it. At any rate, I hope
So Benjamin separated from his old friends on the best of terms, and
commenced work for Mr. Denham. Nor was it light work. He accompanied
his employer from warehouse to warehouse, packing goods that he
bought, and forwarding them to the ship _Berkshire_, which would sail
on July 21st. It was new business for him, but he liked it all the
more for its novelty; and he performed the labors with his accustomed
tact and industry.
Benjamin had been nineteen months in London when he sailed on the 21st
of July, 1726. A few months before, he made the acquaintance of Peter
Collinson, a young man of noble English birth, whose talents gave him
nearly as much standing as his ancestry. Collinson heard of Benjamin
and sought him out, forming a life-long friendship. Collinson
accompanied Benjamin to the ship. Just before the vessel weighed
anchor, he handed his walking-stick to Benjamin, saying, "Let us
Benjamin exchanged, replying, "And let it be a pledge of friendship
"And a pledge, also, of faithful correspondence with each other,"
added Collinson, as they shook hands and parted.
The _Berkshire_, Henry Clark, master, was eighty-two days on its
voyage to Philadelphia. Benjamin landed there on the 11th day of
October, 1726: and he was at home again.
 "Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin," vol. i. p. 136.
UPS AND DOWNS OF LIFE.
One of the first places that Benjamin visited was the printing house
of Keimer, where he worked before leaving the country. Keimer had made
up his mind that Benjamin would never return to America, so that when
he entered the printing office he was startled.
"Why, Ben! can it be you?" he exclaimed in wonder. "I began to think
that you would never be seen in Philadelphia again."
"Why did you think so?"
"Because you planned to be back here a long time ago; I concluded that
you had forsaken us."
"Not yet; I have seen no place abroad quite equal to Philadelphia. I
did not return as soon as I expected." And Benjamin rehearsed to
Keimer substantially his experience with Governor Keith, that he might
understand why his return was delayed.
"That is what you got for concealing your purpose," said Keimer. "I
could have told you that Keith was wholly unreliable, and so could a
good many other people. He has been turned out of office because of
"I am glad to hear that. I am a little curious to see how he will act,
and hear what he will say, when I meet him."
"He won't meet you if he can help it. I see him occasionally on the
street, and he looks crestfallen."
"He will look more so, I imagine, when he meets me. I propose to talk
matters over very plainly with him."
"That can do no good. The less breath you waste in that way, the
better for you," replied Keimer. "But I suppose you want to go to work
at your old trade? Plenty of work here, and you are just the man to do
Keimer's business had increased largely, and he had added many
facilities for doing work, so that the establishment presented a more
"No; I am a printer no longer," answered Benjamin. "I am booked for
the mercantile business in Philadelphia"
"How is that? Were you not a printer in London?"
"Yes, I followed my trade there, and learned more about it than I ever
knew before. London is a great place for printing. Two printing houses
there, with more than fifty hands in each."
"Think you can do better in trading than printing?" asked Keimer, who
was really anxious for Benjamin's services.
"Not exactly so. But I should be in London now, had not Mr. Denham's
offer to become his clerk brought me home." And Benjamin told the
story of his acquaintance with Mr. Denham and the outcome, which was
his offer to make him his business manager.
"A good opportunity, I should think, if you like that business,"
answered Keimer; "but I should like to put you in manager of my
printing office. You have had the experience, and understand the
business much better than any man I have."
"That is out of the question now, of course, as I am under obligations
to Mr. Denham."
"Of course; I only meant to tell you what I would do if you were at
Benjamin was anxious to learn about Miss Read, whom he was quite
ashamed to meet because of his neglect. Keimer was acquainted with the
family, and first introduced him to them, as was stated in a former
chapter. So that he had no doubt he would know all about Deborah. He
ventured to inquire:
"What can you tell me about Mrs. Read and her daughter?"
"Mrs. Read lives where she did, and continues to take a few boarders.
Her daughter was married to a miserable fellow, nearly a year ago, but
lived with him only a few weeks, when she left him."
"Indeed! That was unfortunate for her," Benjamin answered. "She
deserves a better experience than that."
"She would not have married, had she been left to her own choice, but
her mother and other friends persuaded her. Rogers was her husband's
name, and he was a potter by trade, a first-class workman; and they
thought he was capable of getting a good living, I suppose."
"A good character would have been of more service to him," suggested
Benjamin; "a very unfortunate affair."
"I was going to sway," continued Keimer, "that she had been married
but a few weeks before she found that Rogers had another wife. Of
course her marriage was not legal, and she left him at once."
"Probably her mother made no inquiry about Rogers' character
beforehand," remarked Benjamin. "Mothers ought to be wiser than that."
"We all have to live and learn, and experience is our best
schoolmaster," added Keimer.
Keimer knew nothing of Benjamin's relation to Deborah Read, so that he
spoke freely. The revelation was startling to Benjamin, and it set him
to thinking. He concluded that Mrs. Read inferred from his first and
only letter to Deborah that he would never return, or never be in a
situation to support a wife and family; and, as time went on, and no
other letters were received, she became fixed in her conclusion that
he would not return. Benjamin took all the blame upon himself; and the
honest sympathy of his heart asserted itself for the girl. He resolved
to call upon her as soon as possible and confess his wrong-doing, ask
her forgiveness, and renew his attentions.
"I should have said," Keimer added, "that Deborah has not changed her
name. She refuses to be called Mrs. Rogers, and is still called Miss
Read by her friends. This is all right, I suppose, because her
marriage was illegal."
"Very wise for her, I think," responded Benjamin. "But she may
consider herself fortunate to get released from such a bondage."
He improved the first opportunity to call at Mrs. Read's, to whom he
appeared as one from the dead. She had not heard of his arrival, nor
that he was expected. The _American Weekly Mercury_, the only
newspaper of the town, announced, "Entered inwards, ship _Berkshire_,
Henry Clark, from London." That was all; nothing was said about any
"Benjamin Franklin!" exclaimed Mrs. Read in great astonishment,
throwing up her hands at first, as if fearing it was his ghost, and
then giving him a most cordial welcome. "Can it be you?"
"It can be," Benjamin replied, with his old-time familiarity, being
reassured by Mrs. Read's friendly appearance. "If I know myself, this
is Benjamin Franklin."
Deborah made her appearance before the last words were fairly off the
lips of the new comer, equally surprised and glad to see her old
"I am really ashamed to meet you, Deborah, after my inexcusable
neglect," he said, "and first of all I ask you to forgive me. It
scarcely seems possible to myself that I should treat you so."
Before Deborah had time to reply her mother spoke:
"If there is any blame to be attached to any one, it is to me; for I
opposed your engagement, and entreated Deborah to marry that apology
for a man Rogers."
"But all that does not excuse me for not writing to Deborah,"
responded Benjamin "It was very wrong in me to treat her with such
neglect. And I did not intend to do so; I meant to continue the
correspondence, but one thing and another prevented for so long a
time, that I really was ashamed to write."
"Well, it is all over now, and there is no help for what has been
done, except to learn a good lesson from it for the future, if we are
all bright enough to do that."
Mrs. Read swept the deck by these last remarks. There was no obstacle
now to consummate an engagement with Deborah. She did not tell
Benjamin to go ahead and make sure of his bird now, that she would not
interpose the slightest objection; but she might as well have said so;
and he so understood it, so that he felt perfectly at ease.
Deborah Read had never lost her first love, and never wholly abandoned
the idea that her lover would return. She had no love for Rogers when
she married him; she married him to please her mother. Now, her love
for Benjamin was as fresh and strong as ever; and so was his love for
her. Their intimacy was renewed, an engagement consummated.
Benjamin was twenty years old--a fine-appearing, handsome young man.
Mr. Denham thought so, and so did Deborah Read. The first was
fortunate in securing him for his clerk, and the second was equally
fortunate in securing him for her future husband. And Benjamin himself
was as fortunate as either of them in having such an employer as
Denham, and such a betrothed as Deborah. It was a tidal wave of good
"And I am prepared to go to work at once."
"I will pay you extra wages to take the whole charge of the printing
office, so that I can give my attention to the stationer's shop."
"I can do that, or any thing else you desire; am not at all
particular. I am now twenty-one years old, and ought to be a man any
way, and do the best I can wherever I am put."
Keimer's offer was liberal, and Benjamin accepted it, and entered upon
his work as superintendent of the printing house, a very responsible
position. But, in a short time, he had good reason to believe that
Keimer paid him so liberal wages because he wanted the poor printers
to improve under his superintendence; and when that end was
accomplished, he would cut down his wages, or hire another man for
less money. However, he went to work with a will, as he always did,
resolved to do the best he could for his employer.
As the workmen improved under Benjamin's supervision, Keimer evidently
began to think of discharging him, or cutting down his wages. On
paying his second quarter's wages, he told him that he could not
continue to pay him so much. He became uncivil in his treatment,
frequently found fault with him, and plainly tried to make his
situation uncomfortable so that he would leave. At length a rare
opportunity offered for him to make trouble. An unusual noise in the
street one day caused Benjamin to put his head out of the window to
learn what was the matter. Keimer happened to be in the street, and
seeing him, cried out:
"Put your head in and attend to your business," adding some
reproachful words which all the people around him heard. Then
hastening up stairs into the office, he continued his insulting
"Men who work for me must give better heed to their business. If they
care more for a noise in the street than they do for their work, it is
high time they left."
"I am ready to leave any time you please," retorted Benjamin, nettled
by such uncalled-for treatment. "I am not dependent on you for a
living, and I shall not bear such treatment long, I assure you."
"That, indeed!" replied Keimer, derisively. "You would not stay
another day were it not for our agreement, in accordance with which I
now warn you that, at the end of this quarter, I shall cease to employ
"And I will notify you that I shall not work another minute for you. A
man who is neither honest, nor a gentleman, does not deserve the
service of decent men." Benjamin was aroused.
And, as he spoke these last cutting words, he took his hat and left.
As he passed down, he said to Meredith:
"Bring all my things to my lodgings."
In the evening, Meredith carried all the articles belonging to
Benjamin to his boarding-place, where he had a long interview.
"Keimer lost the last claim for respect that he had on his men
to-day," said Meredith. "Not a man in his establishment, who does not
condemn his course."
"Just what I expected. He does not want to pay me my price, now that
the men have learned their business. This was the first occasion he
has had to drive me off." Benjamin spoke with the utmost coolness.
"It is the worst act for himself that he has done," continued
Meredith. "Every man he employs would leave him if work could be had
"I think I shall return to Boston, whether I remain there or not. It
is a good time for me to visit my friends."
"I have something better than that to suggest. My thoughts have been
busy on it all day, and I wanted to see you about it to-night before
you laid any plans." Meredith's manner indicated something of
"What have you to propose? I am ready for any practicable enterprise
you can name."
"I want to set up the printing business for myself, and I am not
sufficiently acquainted with it, and you are. Can we not arrange to go
into business together?"
Meredith's proposition took Benjamin by surprise, and evidently seemed
impracticable to him.
"And have poverty for our capital?" replied Benjamin with a laugh. "I
am about as rich as you are."
"No; have money for our capital, all that is necessary to start us
well in business," answered Meredith.
"That would be fine, I declare; but I would like to see the money
first," added Benjamin, before Meredith could explain.
"Hold on a minute, let me explain, and you will see that my plan is
not so impracticable as you seem to think. My father has money; and he
has always said that he would start me in business whenever I got a
good knowledge of it. He knows, of course, that I have not that
knowledge yet; but he knows, too, that a man who can run Keimer's
establishment has the requisite knowledge, and would be a good partner
"But your father will never advance the necessary capital,"
interrupted Benjamin. "If I was ten years older he might do it."
"I am confident that he will; at any rate, I will consult him about
the matter, and learn just what he will do. I have told him all about
you, and he will think it is a good opportunity for me."
Meredith consulted his father, and received the prompt answer:
"Yes, I will do it gladly. I know of no young man I would select for
your partner in preference to Franklin."
In a subsequent interview with Benjamin, Mr. Meredith said:
"I am all the more ready to furnish the capital, because your
influence over my son has been so good. You influenced him to stop
drinking when he was fast becoming intemperate, and I shall always
feel grateful for it. You are just the one to be intimately associated
It was settled that they should enter into partnership, and start
their business as soon as the necessary outfit could be obtained from
THE LEATHERN-APRON CLUB.
Benjamin began to reflect much upon his religious opinions (or,
rather, irreligious), on his return voyage from England, as related to
the errors and mistakes of his life. He had much time, during those
three long, wearisome months, to study himself, past and present.
Evidently he came to possess a more correct knowledge of himself on
that voyage than he ever had before. He was so sincere in the matter
that he drew up a number of rules by which to regulate his future
life. A year and more afterwards he enlarged and perfected this code
of morals. The rules which he adopted on the _Berkshire_ were prefaced
with the following paragraph:
"Those who write of the art of poetry teach us that, if we would write
what may be worth reading, we ought always, before we begin, to form a
regular plan and design of our piece, otherwise we shall be in danger
of incongruity. I am apt to think it is the same as to life. I have
never fixed a regular design of life, by which means it has been a
confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new
one; let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of
action, that thenceforth I may live like a rational creature."
The closing sentence shows that his conscience was making him
considerable trouble, and that he concluded his life had been very
irrational. Perhaps he thought of Collins, whom he made a free
thinker, and of Ralph, whom he corrupted in the same way. One of them
became a drunkard, and the other a polygamist; both of them cheating
him out of a sum of money; might not their free thinking be related to
their immoralities? He could not help thinking of these things, and so
he wrote down the following rules:
"1. It is necessary for me to be extremely frugal for some time till I
have paid what I owe.
"2. To endeavor to speak truth in every instance; to give nobody
expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity
in every word and action; the most amiable excellence in a rational
"3. To apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand,
and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of
growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means
"4. I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of
truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon
others, and, upon proper occasions, speak all the good I know of every
This was not all he wrote to guide his future career; but we have
cited enough to show the current of Benjamin's thoughts at the time of
which we are speaking. We shall see hereafter that he did not cease to
reflect upon his career, and resolve upon a nobler life.
Soon after his return from England, perhaps after the death of Mr.
Denham, Benjamin organized a literary club, composed, at first, of
eleven members, all of them more or less talented and desirous of
self-improvement, and nearly all of them mechanics, which fact caused
the institution to be christened "THE LEATHERN-APRON CLUB," although
the real name of it, as suggested by Franklin, was "THE JUNTO."
The society was patterned after one formed by Cotton Mather in Boston.
The first thing done at their meetings was to read the following
questions, pausing after reading each for any remarks or propositions
members might desire to make. The principal questions were as follows:
"1. Is there any remarkable disorder in the place that requires our
endeavor for the suppression of it? And in what fair, likely way may
we endeavor it?
"2. Is there any particular person, whose disorderly behavior may be
so scandalous and notorious that we may do well to send unto the said
person our charitable admonitions? Or, are there any contending
persons whom we should admonish to quench their contentions?
"3. Is there any special service to the interest of Religion which we
may conveniently desire our ministers to take notice of?
"4. Is there any thing we may do well to mention unto the justices for
the further promoting good order?
"5. Is there any sort of officers among us to such a degree unmindful
of their duty that we may do well to mind them of it?
"6. Can any further methods be devised that ignorance and wickedness
may be chased from our people in general, and that household piety in
particular may flourish among them?
"7. Does there appear any instance of oppression or fraudulence in the
dealings of any sort of people that may call for our essays to get it
"8. Is there any matter to be humbly moved unto the Legislative Power,
to be enacted into a Law for the public benefit?
"9. Do we know of any person languishing under sore and sad
affliction; and is there any thing we can do for the succor of such an
"10. Has any person any proposal to make for our own further advantage
and assistance, that we ourselves may be in a probable and regular
capacity to pursue the intention before us?"
"I should pronounce that an ingenious society for doing good and
getting good," said Coleman, after the questions were read.
"It was so, and Cotton Mather himself was a member of twenty of these
societies," said Benjamin. "They became very popular, and I recall
with what interest my father participated in the meetings. I often
accompanied him, and, young as I was, they were very interesting to
me. It was that fact which suggested the questions I have reported for
When a person united with the Junto, he was required to stand up, lay
his hand on his heart, and answer the following questions:
"1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present member?
"_Answer_. I have not.
"2. Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what
profession or religion soever?
"_Answer_. I do.
"3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or
goods, for mere speculative opinion, or his external way of worship?
"4. Do you love truth for truth's sake; and will you endeavor
impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to
At one of their earliest meetings Benjamin proposed that each member
(the number of members was limited to twelve) should bring his books
to the club-room for reference during their discussions.
"A capital idea," said Coleman, "and I would suggest that each member
have the privilege of reading the books belonging to other members."
"Another good idea," rejoined Benjamin; "I second that motion with all
"It will not take any one of us a great while to read all the books we
can muster," suggested Potts.
At that time there was no bookstore in Philadelphia, nor was there one
of considerable note anywhere in the Colonies, except in Boston. The
people of Philadelphia sent to England for the books they wanted,
which was expensive and inconvenient.
After this plan had been successfully used for several months,
Benjamin made another proposition.
"I propose that we establish a library, interesting parties outside to
join us in the enterprise."
"Raising money for the same by subscription, do you mean?" inquired
"Yes; unless there is a better way of doing it."
"I doubt if outsiders can be interested to join us in such a project,"
said Grace. "Few people care enough about books to put money into such
"Perhaps so; but we can try; if we fail we shall still be as well off
as we are now," was Benjamin's answer. "Unless we make the effort we
shall never know what we can do."
"And you are the one to solicit subscriptions, Ben," remarked Godfrey.
"If anybody can succeed, you can. If I should undertake and fail, as I
should, it would not prove that the scheme is impracticable."
"I am perfectly willing to solicit subscriptions, and I will begin at
once and be able to report success or failure at the next meeting,"
was Benjamin's generous offer.
At the following meeting he was able to report success, so far as he
had been able to work; and he continued until fifty young tradesmen
had pledged forty shillings each as a subscription, and, in addition,
ten shillings per annum. This was unexpected success, and the members
of the Junto were highly elated. Thus was established the first
circulating library in this country. Benjamin Franklin was the author
of it; and that library numbers now one hundred thousand volumes.
Since that day the library scheme has proved so beneficial to
individuals and the public, that there are thousands of circulating
libraries in the land. Almost every town of two or three thousand
inhabitants has one. It must not be forgotten, however, that Benjamin
Franklin conceived and reduced the idea to practice.
The following are some of the questions discussed by members of the
"Is sound an entity or body?
"How may the phenomenon of vapors be explained?
"Is self-interest the rudder that steers mankind, the universal
monarch to whom all are tributaries?
"Which is the best form of government, and what was that form which
first prevailed among mankind?
"Can any one particular form of government suit all mankind?
"What is the reason that the tides rise higher in the Bay of Fundy
than the Bay of Delaware?
"Is the emission of paper money safe?
"What is the reason that men of the greatest knowledge are not the
"How may the possession of the lakes be improved to our advantage?
"Why are tumultuous, uneasy sensations united with our desires?
"Whether it ought to be the aim of philosophy to eradicate the
"How may smoky chimneys be best cured?
"Why does the flame of a candle tend upwards in a spire?
"Which is the least criminal, a _bad_ action joined with a _good_
intention, or a _good_ action with a _bad_ intention?
"Is it inconsistent with the principles of liberty in a free
government, to punish a man as a libeller when he speaks the truth?"
The foregoing Rules and Questions show that it could not have been an
ordinary class of young men to meet and discuss such subjects.
Benjamin's talent is manifest both in the organization and the themes
Improvements have been the order of the day since the Junto was
organized; but we doubt if there has been much improvement upon the
Junto in literary organizations for the young. It is not surprising,
that, of the original twelve members, two became surveyors-general;
one the inventor of a quadrant; one a distinguished mechanic and
influential man; one a merchant of great note and a provincial judge,
and all but one respected and honored men. At the same time, Benjamin,
the founder, became "Minister to the Court of St. James," "Minister
Plenipotentiary to France," and the greatest Statesman and Philosopher
of America, in the eighteenth century.
In old age Doctor Franklin said of the Junto: "It was the best school
of philosophy, morality, and politics that then existed in the
Province; for our queries, which were read the week preceding their
discussion, put us upon reading with attention on the several
subjects, that we might speak more to the purpose; and here, too, we
acquired better habits of conversation, every thing being studied in
our rules which might prevent our disgusting each other."
The Junto was copied in England fifty years after Benjamin organized
it in Philadelphia, by Cleming Jenkinson (who became Earl of
Liverpool) and others; and, within it, they began careers that became
illustrious. It has been copied in different parts of our own land
down to the present day, blessing the people and the country in more
ways than one.
"I can tell you how to get over the difficulty," said Benjamin: "let
each member get up a club of twelve, and that will give a chance for
one hundred and forty-four members."
"And when that number is attained, I suppose you will have each one of
the one hundred and forty-four organize a Junto, and that will make
the membership seventeen hundred and twenty-eight, enough to
constitute a good township," suggested Coleman, who did not endorse
"One Junto will be of more service to members, as well as to the
public, than a dozen can be, only abolish the limit to twelve members,
and allow all who desire to join," was Coleman's view.
"More interesting, also, to have a larger number of members,"
suggested Parsons. "Numbers create enthusiasm."
"And numbers often create friction, too," retorted Benjamin; "we want
to avoid both shoals and rocks."
"Another thing that I object to very much is this: if each one of us
organizes another Junto, we no longer associate with each other--the
very thing for which this Junto was organized." This was the strongest
objection that Coleman urged.
"That is the selfish side of the question," suggested Benjamin. "On
the other hand, there will be twelve times as many persons to be
benefited. If we twelve are benefited, how much better and grander to
have one hundred and forty-four benefited!"
"Ben is right; and I am of the opinion that the sooner we adopt this
plan the better. It will be unpleasant to sacrifice our social
connections to form new ones, but the new ones may become equally
pleasant." Scull thus supported Benjamin's proposition; and so did
Meredith, Maugridge, and others.
This discussion arose from the popularity of the Junto. It became so
popular that large numbers of persons wanted to join it, and besought
the members to abolish the rule limiting the membership to twelve.
Hence, Benjamin's proposition to meet the exigency, which was carried,
with this amendment:
"The new clubs shall be auxiliary to this, the original one, each
reporting its proceedings to the parent society, that one harmonious
purpose and plan may characterize all."
All the members did not organize a club, but five or six did, and
these clubs flourished for many years, blessing the town and the whole
The Junto was not many months old, when Benjamin made another
"The books we read have words and phrases in other languages, and I do
not know their meaning. I studied Latin some in Boston, before I was
ten years old, and Latin words I can guess at, but French I can't.
Suppose we study French."
"You can study it if you want to," replied Scull, "but I have not the
time for another study."
"And I have not the taste for it," said Meredith. "One language is all
that I can handle, and I can't handle that as I want to."
"I like the suggestion," responded Coleman "and can give a little time
to French, though not a great deal. If Ben becomes an expert linguist
he can translate the foreign words and phrases for us."
"That last suggestion is best of all," remarked Parsons. "Ben can go
ahead and become a linguist for our benefit. That is the benevolent
side of this question," punning on his argument for the benevolent
side of the club question.
Whether other members of the Junto studied the languages we have no
means of knowing, but Benjamin did, with remarkable success. First he
studied French, and when he could read it quite well, he took up
Italian and Spanish. By this time he became so interested in foreign
languages that he revived his acquaintance with Latin, becoming quite
a good scholar therein. It was a mystery to his companions how he
found time to accomplish so much; but he did it by method and
industry, improving the smallest fragments of time, working early and
late. He was very fond of playing chess; but he denied himself the
pleasure wholly in order that he might have the more time for study.
While at Keimer's he found more time for reading and hard study,
because his employer observed Saturday as his Sabbath, giving only
five days in the week to work.
It would require several months for the printing outfit ordered from
England to reach Philadelphia. In the mean time, Benjamin was
considering what to do; and, while canvassing the field, he received
the following note from Keimer:
"PHILADELPHIA, 10 Dec., 1727.
"MR. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN:
"_Dear Sir_,--It is not wise for old friends like you and I to
separate for a few words spoken in passion. I was very hasty, and
am sorry for it. I want my old foreman back again at the old price.
I have plenty of work, and if you think well of my proposition,
come and see me.
Benjamin's first impulse was to destroy the letter and take no further
notice of it. But the second, sober thought led him to consult
Meredith, who continued to work for Keimer. Meredith read the letter,
"I should advise you to accept his proposition, as you have nothing to
"But can you tell me what selfish end he has in view, for Keimer would
never come down like that unless he had an axe to grind?" Benjamin
"Most certainly I can. He can have a government job if he can do the
work. The Province of New Jersey is going to make a new issue of paper
money, and he can get the job; but you are the only printer in
Philadelphia who can do that work, so he wants you."
"I knew there must be something of that sort, or he never would have
asked for my work again. He is too contemptible a man to work for."
Benjamin spoke with much feeling; and he was right, too.
"But here is the point," continued Meredith. "I am poorly equipped to
set up business for myself, and you can teach me. It will be anywhere
from six to eight months before our outfit arrives from England, so
here is a good opportunity for me to improve."
"I suppose that is the best way of looking at it; but Keimer has so
little manhood about him that I have no respect for him. I dislike to
work for a man whom I despise, and can't help it." Benjamin's language
showed that it was almost too much to ask him to return to Keimer's
printing office; but Meredith persevered.
"For my sake, I want you should decide to accept the proposition.
Keimer has made an apology, so that you can return without
compromising your manhood at all. It looks to me as if it were wiser
to accept his proposal than to decline it."
"I will sleep over it to-night before I decide, and let you know in
the morning," replied Benjamin, as he took his leave.
In the morning Benjamin put in his appearance at Keimer's office,
ready for work. He received a hearty welcome, and was at once apprized
of the paper-money job of New Jersey.
Benjamin succeeded in contriving and completing a copper-plate press;
and when cuts and ornaments were all ready, Keimer and he proceeded to
Burlington, N.J., where they remained three months to fulfill the
contract. It proved a rare school for Benjamin. It brought him in
contact with many prominent men, who were of much assistance to him
afterwards. He was so much more intelligent than Keimer, that the
latter was of little consequence, as very little notice was taken of
him. One day Isaac Decon, the surveyor-general, said to him:
"You are complete master of your business, and success is before you."
"I have improved my opportunities," modestly answered Benjamin, "and
done the best I could to learn my trade. I don't like the half-way
method of doing business."
"I commenced business in a very humble way," continued Decon, "without
dreaming that I should ever possess such an estate as I do now."
"What was your business?"
"I wheeled clay for the brickmakers, and had no opportunity of going
to school in my boyhood. I did not learn to write until I became of
age. I acquired my knowledge of surveying when I carried a chain for
surveyors, who were pleased with my desire to learn the business, and
assisted me. By constant industry, and close application, and not a
little perseverance, I have succeeded in reaching the place where you
now see me."
"That is the only way any person ever reached an honorable position,"
remarked Benjamin, after listening to the interesting story of
"You are right in that view, and one-half of the battle is fought when
correct views of life are fixed. When an employer like Keimer is
inferior to his employee in ability, tact, and enterprise, there is a
very poor show for him. If you set up for yourself in Philadelphia,
you will work him completely out of his business."
Late in the spring of 1728 the printing outfit arrived from England.
Benjamin and Meredith had settled with Keimer, who was unusually happy
because his profits on his paper-money job in New Jersey had tided him
over very discouraging embarrassments. Keimer knew nothing of their
plans, however, when a settlement was consummated, as both had kept
the secret. The first intimation that he, or the public, had of such
an enterprise, was the opening of their printing house in the lower
part of Market Street--"FRANKLIN & MEREDITH."
"Here's a man looking for a printer," said George House, an old friend
of Benjamin. "He inquired of me where he could get a job done, and I
told him that here was the place above all others."
"Thank you for the advertisement, George. Yes, sir, we can serve you
here at short notice. What will you have done?" Benjamin won the
customer over at once by his genial, familiar way.
The man made known his wants; and it proved to be a five-shilling job,
all the more acceptable because it was the first.
With the members of the Junto all interested in his success, and the
public men of New Jersey, who made his acquaintance at Burlington,
Benjamin's business was soon well advertised. Many people were taken
by surprise, and most of them predicted a failure, since there were
two printers in town already. One day Samuel Nickle, an old citizen of
the town, known somewhat as a croaker, was passing by, and, looking
up, he read the sign.
"Another printing house!" he said to himself. "And two in town
already! Who can be so thoughtless?" He stopped and mused a few
moments, and then entered.
"Are you the young man who has opened this printing house?" he
inquired of Benjamin.
"I am, sir."
"I am very sorry for you. You are throwing away your money; you can't
succeed with two old printing houses here. You will fail."
"What makes you think so?"
"Because Philadelphia is degenerating, and half the people are now
bankrupt, or nearly so, and how can they support so many printers?"
"But the appearance of Philadelphia indicates thrift," answered
Benjamin. "See how many buildings are going up, and how rents are
rising every month. This does not look like going backward, it seems
"These are the very things that will ruin us," responded Nickle. "They
are no evidence of prosperity, but of extravagance, that will bring
disaster sooner or later."
"That sort of disaster is what we want," suggested Benjamin; "the more
of it the better. If Philadelphia ever becomes much of a town, it will
be in just that way." Benjamin saw at once that he was talking with a
croaker and treated him accordingly.
There was an organization of business men in Philadelphia at that
time, known as the "Merchants' Every-Night Club," answering, perhaps,
to a "Board of Trade" of our day. Its purpose was to advance the
business interests of the town. A member raised the question, "Can
another printing house prosper in town?"
"Not with the present population," was the view of one member.
"It will be a long time before three printing houses will be
required," remarked another.
"They could not have had very discreet advisers, it seems to me,"
still another remarked.
In this manner the subject was canvassed, every member but one
predicting the failure of the enterprise. That one was Doctor Baird, a
prominent physician, and he said:
"It will prove a success. For the industry of that Franklin is
superior to any thing I ever saw of the kind. I see him still at work
when I go home from club, and he is at work again before his neighbors
are out of bed."
"Doctor, I guess you are right, I did not think of that when I spoke,"
remarked one who had predicted failure. This member was so much
impressed by Doctor Baird's remark that he subsequently went to
Benjamin and made this proposition:
"I think you can add a stationer's department to your business, and
thus increase your profits; and if you think so, I will furnish you
with stock on credit."
"Your offer is a very generous one, and I thank you for it," answered
Benjamin; "but I think we had better stick to our trade at present and
not put too many irons in the fire at once."
"That is a wise caution, I think, and I am all the more impressed that
you are a young man of sound judgment, and you will succeed."
He had no doubt now that the printing house would succeed.
"Your good opinion encourages me very much, and I shall do my best to
have it realized," replied Benjamin. "I thank you very much for your
generous offer, and, perhaps, at some future day, I shall wish to
"Let me know whenever you are ready for it," said the gentleman as he
took his departure.
"We will start a weekly paper as soon as we are able," said Benjamin
to Meredith one day; "the _Mercury_ is as near nothing as it can be. I
believe that an able paper here, abreast with the times, will
"You can make it succeed if any one can," replied Meredith, to whom
his partner had given a full account of his connection with the _New
England Courant_ in Boston.
They canvassed the subject until it was decided to start a weekly
paper as soon as their pecuniary condition would permit. Just then the
Oxford student, whose time Keimer had bought, called upon Benjamin.
"Will you employ me as journeyman printer?" he asked.
"Employ you?" responded Benjamin with much surprise. "I thought your
time was Keimer's for four years."
"It was; but it is not now; I have bought it back."
"I am glad to hear that; you will be more of a man for it; and, before
long, I think we should like your work; just now we are not in want of
"Your work is increasing, I suppose?" said Webb; "hope I shall not
have to wait long."
"If you can keep a secret, Webb, I will let you into it," continued
Benjamin. "I expect to start a weekly paper before many weeks have
passed; and then I shall have plenty of work."
"How long shall I have to wait?"
"I can't say. It is possible I may want you before I start the
newspaper; work is coming in very well. But you must not let Keimer
know about the paper. When it starts I want it should be a surprise to
him and the public."
"I will not divulge your secret," was Webb's ready promise.
Nevertheless, Webb did disclose the secret to Keimer himself, who
proceeded to start a paper of his own, called the _Pennsylvania
Gazette_, and he hired Webb, at good wages, to work on it. It proved
to be a miserable affair, without ability or intelligent enterprise,
so that a sharp, witty young man like Benjamin could readily make it a
"I will show up his ignorance and conceit in the _Mercury_" (name of
the paper already published by Bradford), he said to Meredith. "See if
"A good idea, Ben; go ahead; it will create a sensation. Bradford will
be glad to publish any thing you may write."
"I will see him at once." And Benjamin hastened to the office of the
_Mercury_, made known his purpose to Bradford, who caught at it at
"Just the thing I want," responded Bradford. "Let me have something
for the next issue."
"Certainly; you shall have the first article to-morrow morning."
Benjamin hurried away with his mind completely absorbed upon the
subjects he should take up. The result was a series of amusing
articles, in which he burlesqued Keimer's proposals, and ridiculed his
editorials, which really deserved nothing better. He continued to
write in this way several months, signing all his articles "_Busy
Body_." The public were greatly interested in the communications,
because of their real merit. They were bright, even sparkling, full of
humor, logical to sharpness, and charged with ability. They drew
public attention to Bradford's paper, and public ridicule to Keimer's;
so that the subscription list of the former increased, while that of
the latter never had over ninety subscribers. People on every hand
inquired, "Who is _Busy Body_?" And, finally, the public learned that
it was "that young Franklin, the printer." Keimer learned who his
critic was; and, after the lapse of six or eight months from the time
the first number was issued, who should appear before Benjamin at his
office but him, saying:
"I understand that you think of starting a weekly newspaper; and I
have come to sell you mine."
"How is that? Can't you make it go?" Benjamin replied in a familiar
"No, not as I want to. I don't think I am exactly qualified to run a
"How many subscribers have you?"
"Only ninety?" exclaimed Benjamin. "That number will be of no aid in
starting a paper; might as well start new; new paper, new title, new
editor, new every thing."
The conclusion of the interview was, however, that Benjamin purchased
the paper, took possession immediately, advertised his literary
enterprise, and "it proved," as he said, "in a few years extremely
profitable to me."
His economy was equal to his industry. He arrayed himself in the
plainest manner, although he aimed to look neat and tidy. His board
was simple and cheap, and every thing about his business was conducted
on the most economical principles. He wheeled home the paper which he
bought, boarded himself some of the time, sleeping in the office, and
never stopped to consider whether it was compromising the dignity of a
printer to do such things.
Keimer left no stone unturned to secure business and cripple Franklin
and Meredith. He was never half so active and enterprising as he
became after these two young men set up for themselves. One day Keimer
was in Benjamin's printing office to transact some business, when the
latter said to him:
"Look here, Keimer; come with me into the back room."
"What you got there?" Keimer answered, following.
"See that!" Benjamin said, pointing to a half-devoured loaf and
pitcher of water, that he had just made a meal off.
"What of that?" said Keimer, not comprehending the drift of Benjamin's
"Unless you can live cheaper than I can, it is no use for you to
attempt to run me out of business."
Both laughed, and Keimer departed.
The _Gazette_ flourished finely from the time it came under Benjamin's
management. He was able to discuss public questions of importance with
manifest ability, and his articles created interest and discussion
among public men, who became subscribers in consequence. A dispute was
going on between Governor Burnett and the Massachusetts Assembly, and
Benjamin commented upon it with so much wisdom and originality that
his intimate acquaintance was sought by the most distinguished men.
Benjamin's work as a printer excelled that of either Keimer or
Bradford. The latter did the government printing, and often it was
done in a very bungling manner. This was notably so when he printed an
address of the House to the Governor. It was a very inferior job;
whereupon Benjamin printed it elegantly and correctly and sent a copy
to each member of the House. The House voted to give him the
government printing thereafter. By his method of doing the _best_ he
could every time, he built up a business rapidly, and won a reputation
for industry, integrity, and ability that was worth more than money.
To return to Meredith. He had become more intemperate than ever. His
father, too, did not find relief from pecuniary embarrassment as he
expected. He was to pay two hundred pounds currency for the printing
house, and had paid one-half of it. But the other half was not paid
when due, for which all three were sued.
"Perhaps your father is not pleased with your partner," said Benjamin
to Meredith. "If that is the reason he does not advance the money, I
will retire, and you shall run the whole thing."
"No; my father is well satisfied with my partner, and so am I; so that
you need not think he is withholding money for the purpose of getting
rid of you. He is really embarrassed."
"Then he could not take the concern into his own hands for you to
"No, indeed; that would be quite impossible. Besides, I do not want it
on my hands."
"Why?" inquired Benjamin.
"Because I am satisfied that I am not adapted to this business. I was
bred a farmer, and ought not to have left that occupation."
"Drink water, as I do, and you may succeed as well at printing as
farming. A farmer who drinks to excess never succeeds."
"Drink or no drink," retorted Meredith, "I am sick of this business
and shall quit. Many of our Welsh people are going to settle in North
Carolina, where land is cheap, and I am going with them, and shall
follow my old employment."
"Then you will sell out your interest to me, if I understand you?"
That was what Benjamin wanted.
"Certainly; you can get enough friends to help you. If you will take
the debts of the company upon you, return to my father the hundred
pounds he has advanced, pay my little personal debts, and give me
thirty pounds and a new saddle, I will relinquish the partnership and
leave the whole in your hands."
"I will accept your proposition, and we will draw up the papers at
once," said Benjamin.
The bargain was consummated; and the proper papers were prepared,
signed, and sealed. Benjamin accepted the generous aid of Coleman and
Grace, and became sole proprietor of the printing house and
_Pennsylvania Gazette_. This was near the close of the year 1729, a
few months after the _Gazette_ came into his hands.
A few months more elapsed, when he concluded to accept the offer of
the gentleman, spoken of on a previous page, to provide a stock of
stationery, and opened a stationer's shop in his building. This proved
a good investment, and led to his marriage, September 1, 1730, to Miss
While Benjamin was thus prospering, Keimer was going to the wall; and
finally his printing office, with all its furniture, was sold under
the hammer to pay his creditors; and he went to Barbadoes, where he
lived in poverty.
Thus changes brought Benjamin to the front, and his printing house was
the best, doing the most business, of any one in the whole country,
except Boston. True, Bradford continued his business and paper; but in
a very small way, in no sense a rival to our hero. He stood at the
NO LONGER A SKEPTIC.
"Time is money," Doctor Franklin wrote in age. It was what he
practised when he conducted his printing business in Philadelphia. One
day a lounger stepped into his shop, and, after looking over the
"What is the price of that book?" holding it up in his hand. Benjamin
had commenced to keep a few books on sale.
"One dollar," answered the apprentice in attendance.
"One dollar," repeated the lounger; "can't you take less than that?"
"No less; one dollar is the price."
Waiting a few moments, and still looking over the book, he said, at
"Is Mr. Franklin at home?"
"He is in the printing office."
"I want to see him; will you call him?"
Franklin was called.
"Mr. Franklin, what is the lowest price you will take for this book?"
at the same time holding up the book.
"One dollar and a quarter," answered Franklin, who had heard the
lounger's parleying with his apprentice.
"One dollar and a quarter! Your young man asked but a dollar."
"True," answered Franklin, "and I could have better afforded to take a
dollar then, than to have been called from my business."
The Customer seemed puzzled for a few moments, but, finally, concluded
that the proprietor was joking. He had not been wont to place so great
value upon time.
"Come, now, tell me just the lowest you will take for it," he said.
"One dollar and a half."
"A dollar and a half! Why you offered it yourself for a dollar and a
"True, and I had better taken the price then, than a dollar and a half
now," retorted Benjamin with a good deal of spirit.
The buyer got the truth into his head at last, paid the price of the
book, and sneaked away, with the rebuke lying heavily on his heart.
Benjamin wrote of his industry at that time, as follows:
"My circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My original habits of
frugality continuing, and my father having, among his instructions to
me when a boy, frequently repeated a proverb of Solomon, "_Seest thou
a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before kings, he shall
not stand before mean men_." I thence considered industry as a means
of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encouraged me; though I did
not think that I should ever literally _stand before kings_,--which,
however, has since happened; for I have stood before _five_, and even
had the honor of sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to
It is not strange that such a young man should write such maxims as
the following, in his riper years:
"Pride breakfasts with plenty, dines with poverty, and sups with
"It is as truly folly for the poor to ape the rich, as for the frog to
swell in order to equal the ox."
"It is easier to suppress the first desire, than to satisfy all that
His integrity was no less marked. Strict honesty characterized all his
dealings with men. An exalted idea of justice pervaded his soul. His
word of honor was as good as his note of hand. Even his disposition to
castigate and censure in his writings, so manifest in Boston, at
sixteen years of age, and which his father rebuked, was overcome.
After he had set up a paper in Philadelphia, a gentleman handed him an
article for its columns.
"I am very busy now," said Benjamin, "and you will confer a favor by
leaving it for perusal at my leisure."
"That I will do, and call again to-morrow."
The following day the author put in his appearance quite early.
"What is your opinion of my article?" he asked.
"Why, sir, I am sorry to say that I can not publish it."
"Why not? What is the matter with it?"
"It is highly scurrilous and defamatory," replied Benjamin; "but being
at a loss, on account of my poverty, whether to reject it or not, I
thought I would put it to this issue. At night when my work was done,
I bought a twopenny loaf, on which I supped heartily, and then,
wrapping myself in my great coat, slept very soundly on the floor
until morning, when another loaf and mug of water afforded a pleasant
breakfast. Now, sir, since I can live very comfortably in this manner,
why should I prostitute my press to personal hatred or party passion
for a more luxurious living?"
We have seen that Benjamin began to revise his religious opinions on
his return voyage from England. He continued to reflect much upon his
loose ways; and there is no doubt that his integrity, industry,
economy, and desire to succeed in business had something to do with
his moral improvement. He confessed that, along from 1725 to 1730 he
was immoral, and was sometimes led astray; but his conscience made him
much trouble, and, finally, it asserted its supremacy, and he came off
conqueror over his evil propensities. A change from skepticism or
deism to a decided belief in the Christian Religion, no doubt exerted
the strongest influence in making him a better man.
In 1728 he prepared "_Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion_" for
his own use every day. This was his ritual, beginning and closing with
an humble prayer.
Three or four years later, he appears to have taken up this thought of
a religious life anew; and he prepared a code of morals, perhaps a
revision of his former Articles of Faith, wrote them out carefully in
a blank book for use, as follows:
"1. TEMPERANCE.--Eat not to dulness; drink not to elevation.
"2. SILENCE.--Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid
"3. ORDER.--Let all your things have their places; let each part of
your business have its time.
"4. RESOLUTION.--Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without
fail what you resolve.
"5. FRUGALITY.--Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself;
that is, waste nothing.
"6. INDUSTRY.--Lose no time; be always employed in something useful;
cut off all unnecessary actions.
"7. SINCERITY.--Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly;
and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
"8. JUSTICE.--Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits
that are your duty.
"9. MODERATION.--Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as
you think they deserve.
"10. CLEANLINESS.--Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or
"11. TRANQUILITY.--Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common
"13. HUMILITY.--Imitate Jesus and Socrates."
At one time he seriously thought of organizing a "United Party for
Virtue," in connection with which he prepared this religious creed:
"That there is one God, who made all things.
"That he governs the world by his providence.
"That he ought to be worshipped by adoration, prayer and thanksgiving.
"But that the most acceptable service to God is doing good to man.
"That the soul is immortal.
"And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, either
here or hereafter."
His letters to relatives and friends, from this time, contained strong
words for the Christian Religion, and for the imitation of the virtues
practised by its Author. Through his long and useful life, he
continued to observe the doctrines and precepts that he named in the
foregoing extracts. He was a delegate to the convention for forming a
Constitution of the United States, which met at Philadelphia, May,
1787, and he introduced the motion for daily prayers, with remarks
"In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible
of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine
protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard; and they were graciously
answered. All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have
observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our
favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of
consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national
felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we
imagine we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long
time; and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this
truth, _that_ GOD _governs in the affairs of men_. And, if a sparrow
can not fall to the ground without his notice, is it probably that an
empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the
sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the house, they labor in
vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that,
without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political
building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by
our little, partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded,
and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to future
We will only add here an epitaph that he wrote for his own monument at
twenty-three years of age, supposed to have been a paper for the Junto:
"THE BODY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, PRINTER (LIKE THE COVER OF AN OLD
BOOK, ITS CONTENTS TORN OUT, AND STRIPT OF ITS LETTERING AND GILDING),
LIES HERE, FOOD FOR WORMS. BUT THE WORK ITSELF SHALL NOT BE LOST, FOR
IT WILL, AS HE BELIEVED, APPEAR ONCE MORE, IN A NEW AND MORE ELEGANT
EDITION, REVISED AND CORRECTED BY THE AUTHOR."
POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC.
"I shall have to publish an almanac to be in fashion," remarked
Franklin to his old friend Coleman. "Every printer in this country
issues one, so far as I know."
From this point, we shall drop the Christian name, Benjamin, and use
the surname, Franklin.
"A good theme to discuss in the Junto," replied Coleman. "You would
publish a better one than the country ever had, if you should
"I shall make one that differs from all issued hitherto, in some
respects. I have devoted considerable thought to the subject, and have
formed a plan, although it has not taken an exact shape yet in my own
mind. I think I will bring it up in the Junto."
"By all means do it," added Coleman; "two or more heads may be better
than one alone, even if the one contains more than all the rest."
"Much obliged," answered Franklin. "It will aid me essentially to
mature my plans, to exchange views with the members of the Junto. I
will introduce it at the very next meeting."
The subject was introduced into the Junto, as proposed, and every
member hailed the project with delight. Franklin's paper had become
the most popular one in the country, in consequence of the ability
with which it discussed public questions, and the sharp, crisp wisdom
and wit that made every issue entertaining; and the members believed
that he could make an almanac that would take the lead. The discussion
in the Junto settled the question of issuing the almanac. Its
appearance in 1732 proved a remarkable event in Franklin's life, much
more so than his most sanguine friends anticipated.
The Almanac appeared, with the title-page bearing the imprint: "By
Richard Saunders, Philomat. Printed and sold by B. Franklin."
From the opening to the close of it proverbial sayings, charged with
wisdom and wit, were inserted wherever there was space enough to
insert one. The following is a sample:
"Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used
key is always bright."
"Lost time is never found again; and what we call time enough always
proves little enough."
"Drive thy business, let not that drive thee."
"Industry need not hope, and he that lives upon hope will die
"He that hath a trade hath an estate; and he that hath a calling hath
an office of profit and honor."
"At the working-man's house hunger looks in, but dares not enter."
"Never leave that till to-morrow, which you can do to-day."
"A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things."
"If you would have your business done, go--if not, send."
"What maintains one vice would bring up two children."
"When the well is dry they know the worth of water."
"Pride is as loud a beggar as want, and a great deal more saucy."
"Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."
"The good paymaster is lord of another man's purse."
These jets of wisdom made the Almanac sparkle. The mechanical
execution of the work excelled that of any of its predecessors; but
this literary feature marked the Almanac as marvellous. It became
popular at once. Every body who saw it, admired and bought it. The
Philadelphians were proud that such a document originated in their
town. Copies were sent to friends in other parts of the country, until
"Poor Richard's Almanac" was known throughout the land. Three editions
were exhausted in about a month. For twenty-five years Franklin
continued to publish a similar Almanac, the average annual circulation
of which was ten thousand copies.
The large stock of wisdom and wit which the Almanac contained added
wonderfully to Franklin's fame. From the first issue his mental powers
were widely praised. He was only twenty-six years of age, but now his
intellectual ability was considered superior to that of any other
living man under fifty years of age. The members of the Junto were
greatly elated over his success.
"You have beaten yourself," remarked Coleman to him, "exceeded by far
what I expected, high as my expectations were. Nothing has been
published yet, that has created so profound interest as the Almanac."
"That is all true," said Grace. "Franklin is the theme of remark now
everywhere. People seem to be surprised that he could produce a
document of so much value. Both his business and newspaper will be
advanced by this stroke of wisdom."
"And the Junto, too," suggested Parsons; "the father of the Junto can
not receive so much applause without benefiting his child. Every body
will want to join now, to meet him here."
Each member present was too much elated to remain silent. No words
were too extravagant to express their admiration of Franklin's
ability. To their decided friendship and respect was now added an
honorable pride in being able to point to such a friend and associate.
The success of his newspaper and Almanac provided Franklin with a
supply of money, which he wisely invested. His own words about it
"My business was now constantly augmenting, and my circumstances
growing daily easier; my newspaper having become very profitable, as
being, for a time, almost the only one in this and the neighboring
provinces. I experienced, too, the truth of the observation, '_that
after getting the first hundred pounds, it is more easy to get the
second_'; money itself being of a prolific nature."
Franklin was aided very much, in the conduct of his paper, by the
Junto, where different features of journalism were often discussed.
"In Boston I made a mistake," he said. "I was but a boy then, without
experience or discretion, and found great delight in personalities. I
mean to steer clear of libelling and personal abuse."
"You have so far," replied Coleman; "and thereby you have added to the
dignity and influence of your paper. There is a kind of sharpness and
critical remark that ought to characterize a good paper; and the
_Gazette_ is not deficient in that."
"That is what makes it sparkle, in my judgment," remarked Scull. "It
is not best to be too cautious; some things ought to be hit hard; and
that is true of some men, not to say women."
"That is one thing a newspaper is for," interjected Parsons, "to
expose and remove social and public evils, and, in doing that, some
men will get hit."
"You do not quite understand me," answered Franklin; "I accept all
that Scull and Parsons say, which is not what I mean by libelling and
personal abuse. Here is a case. A few days ago a gentleman called with
an article for the _Gazette_, I looked it over, and found it very
"'I can not publish that,' I said to him.
"'Why not?' he asked.
"'Because it deals in personal abuse, if not in downright libelling.'
"'I will pay for its insertion,' he said.
"'So much the worse for me, to insert a libelous article for money,' I
said. 'On the face of it it appears a personal pique against the
"'But we have a free press in this country,' he insisted.
"'Free to do right, and be just and honorable toward all men, and not
free to injure or abuse them,' I retorted.
"'I supposed that a newspaper was like a stage coach, in which any
one, who pays for a place, has it,' he continued.
"'That is true of some newspapers, but not of mine,' I answered. 'But
I will do this: I will print your article separately, and furnish you
with as many copies as you want, and you can distribute them where you
please, but I will not lumber my columns with detraction, and insult
patrons to whom I am pledged to furnish a good paper for their
families.' The party did not accept my proposition, but left in high
Every member acquiesced in Franklin's views, and encouraged him to
continue the conduct of his paper on that line. It was an age of
vituperation and libelling. Probably there never has been a time since
when so many editors, in proportion to the number of papers, believed
that the newspaper was for that purpose. The gentleman of whom
Franklin spoke wanted to abuse another; but would have complained
bitterly, no doubt, to have been the object of abuse himself.
Franklin's stationer's shop proved a success; and very soon he added a
small collection of books. From 1733 he imported books from London,
and aimed to keep the market supplied with all that were popular
there. His trade in books grew to considerable proportions.
With all his business, and the improvement of odd moments in reading
and study, he found time to attend to music, and became quite an
accomplished player on the harp, guitar, and violin. His family and
company were often entertained by his musical performances.
In 1733 Franklin resolved to visit Boston. He had not visited there
for ten years.
"I must go now," he said to his foreman, "because my brother at
Newport is so feeble that he is not expected to live long. I shall
stop at Newport on my way back."
"And when will you return?"
"As soon as possible. It is only a flying visit I propose to make. I
have some business in Boston, and wish to spend a little time with my
parents, who are getting old and infirm."
He put every thing into a good condition for his foreman to handle in
his absence, and then left for Boston, where his parents embraced him
with tears of joy. There was no trace of the boy left on him now,--he
was a man in the noblest sense of the word.
Necessity compelled Franklin to cut short his visit and return,
stopping at Newport to see his brother. This was his brother James,
the printer to whom he was apprenticed in Boston. He had a prosperous
printing business in that town.
"I am very glad to see you," said James, giving his brother a cordial
and tender welcome. "You find me very feeble; and I was afraid that I
should never see you again."
"I hear of your sickness, and felt that I must come to see you at
once," Franklin replied. "I hope that your prospects are more
favorable than you appear to think they are."
"It is only a question of time; and short time, too. My disease is
incurable, and I am waiting for the end. We will let by-gones be
by-gones; I have only love for you now, my dear brother."
"You can hardly conceive how glad I am to hear you say that; for I
cherish only the sincerest affection for you. I am truly sorry for any
wrong I did you in Boston."
"That is all blotted out now," continued James, "I have one request to
make, and, if you can grant it, I shall be very happy."
"What is it?"
"My son is now ten years old, and the loss of his father will, indeed,
be a great loss to him. I had intended to instruct him in my trade;
and, after my death, I want you should take him to your home in
Philadelphia, where he can learn the printer's trade, and, when he
understands the business well, return him to his mother and sisters,
who will continue the printing house here."
"With all my heart I will do it; and I am glad to grant this favor,
not only for your sake, but for my own," responded Benjamin. "He shall
be one of my family, and I will be to him as a father, and he shall be
to me as a son."
Thus, at the grave's side, the two brothers were thoroughly reconciled
to each other, and it was not long before Franklin had James' son in
his own family.
In 1736 Franklin buried a son, four years old, a child so bright and
beautiful that strangers would stop on the street to behold him. It
was a terrible blow to the parents. He was laid in Christ Church
burying ground, where the defaced and much-broken headstone still
bears this inscription:
SON OF BENJAMIN AND DEBORAH FRANKLIN,
DECEASED NOV. 21, 1736,
AGED 4 YEARS, 1 MONTH, AND 1 DAY.
THE DELIGHT OF ALL THAT KNEW HIM."
Franklin proved a staunch friend of the celebrated George Whitefield
when he visited Philadelphia in 1739. There was great opposition to
his work. At first, one or two pastors admitted him to their pulpits;
but the opposition grew so intense, that all the churches were closed
against him, and he was obliged to preach in the fields. Franklin
denounced this treatment in his paper and by his voice, in the Junto
and on the street.
"You talk about being called to the work of the ministry," he said to
one of the Philadelphia clergy; "if ability and great power in the
pulpit are evidence of being called of God, then Whitefield must have
had a louder call than any of you."
"But he is very peculiar in his methods, and harsh in his treatment of
sinners," suggested the minister.
"But if we sinners do not object, why should you saints? We have heard
him say nothing but the truth yet."
"All that may be true," continued the preacher, "but so much
excitement is not healthy for the spiritual growth of the people."
"When did you, or any one else, ever see so great moral and spiritual
improvement of the people," said Franklin, "as we have seen since
Whitefield has been preaching here? The whole population appears to be
thinking about religion."
"Excitement! excitement!" exclaimed the minister; "and when Whitefield
is gone, there will be a reaction, and the last state of the people
will be worse than the first."
So Franklin supported Whitefield, was a constant attendant upon his
ministrations, and a lasting friendship grew up between them.
"Let us put up a building for him to preach in, now that he is
excluded from the churches," proposed Franklin to a number of
Whitefield's friends, who were discussing the situation. "A preacher
of so much power and self-denial should be sustained."
"A capital suggestion!" answered one of the number, "and you are the
man to carry the measure into effect."
"A rough building is all that is necessary for our purpose; the finish
will be in the preaching," added Franklin. "A preacher of any
denomination whatever, who comes here to instruct the people, without
money and without price, should be provided with a place for worship."
"Yes, even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary
here, I would provide a place for him to hold forth and not turn him
into the street," responded Coleman.
"I will announce in the _Gazette_ at once what our purpose is, and
call a meeting," continued Franklin. "The announcement will test the
feelings of the people on the subject."
"Let it be done in a hurry, too," said Coleman. "Public sentiment is
ripe for something now, and I think the citizens will endorse the
The project was announced, a meeting called, and subscriptions
obtained with little effort, to erect a building one hundred feet long
and seventy wide. In an almost incredibly short time the house of
worship was completed, and Whitefield occupied it.
MORE HONORS AND MORE WORK.
Franklin, in 1736, was chosen Clerk of the General Assembly, and in
1737 appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia. The first position assured
him all the Government printing, and introduced him to influential
men, who would very naturally become the patrons of his printing
house. The second position was of great value to his newspaper, as it
"facilitated the correspondence that improved it, and increased its
circulation" quite largely, thus making it a source of considerable
income. Members of the Junto were as much pleased with his promotion
as Franklin himself.
"We are not at all surprised," said Coleman to Colonel Spotswood; "we
are familiar with Franklin; I mean, we members of the Junto, as no
other persons are. He will fill ably any position you can give him."
"That was my estimate of the man," answered Spotswood, who was
Postmaster-General; "and so I appointed him my deputy here. From all I
could learn of him, I thought he would be exact in his way of doing
business and reporting to the Government. His predecessor was
careless, and even neglectful, so that it was difficult to get any
sort of a report from him."
"You will find no trouble with Franklin on that score," rejoined
Coleman. "He is one of the most exact men I ever knew, and his
judgment is remarkable for one of his years. He appears to succeed in
whatever he undertakes because of his sound judgment, and great
capacity for work. His appointment as Postmaster of Philadelphia gives
"I thought it would," continued Spotswood. "The position should be
occupied by a wise man, who challenges public confidence and respect."
"And Franklin is the wisest man I ever knew," interjected Coleman. "We
see him in this role, in the Junto, as men outside do not. For he lays
before us his plans, and reads important articles that he writes, on
various subjects, for criticism, before they are published. He has
just read a paper on the 'Night-watch,' exposing the worthlessness of
the present system, and proposing a remedy; also, another paper on
establishing a fire-department for the town. When made public, both of
these measures will commend themselves to the people."
The discussion over the night-watch and fire-department in the Junto
was both animated and instructive. Both projects were entirely new,
and were born of Franklin's fertile brain.
"The most cumbersome and awkward arrangement I ever heard of," said
Franklin, in the Junto; "to have the constable of each ward, in turn,
summon to his aid several housekeepers for the night, and such
ragamuffins as most of them summon to their assistance!"
"A glass of grog will enlist some of them for a whole night," remarked
Parsons. "I think the town is safer without any watchmen, unless more
responsible men can be employed."
"Of course it is," responded Coleman; "the six shillings paid annually
to the constable by each man who does not wish to serve is a
corruption fund. The constable can pocket three-fourths of it, and,
with the other fourth, he can employ the irresponsible characters he
does. I wonder the people don't rebel."
"That is not all, nor the worst," remarked Breintnal. "A poor widow,
with less than fifty pounds to her name, must pay the six shillings
just as the wealthiest citizen, with thousands of pounds in his own
right, does. It is very unjust."
"And my plan removes all of these difficulties and burdens," added
Franklin. "I propose to hire suitable men, whose business shall be to
watch at night, levying a tax to pay for the same in proportion to
property. A man who makes it his business to watch is worth much more
than one who occasionally serves under the present system."
Franklin ventilated the subject in the _Gazette_, eliciting remarks
pro and con, gradually educating the people; and finally, after
several years, he had the satisfaction of seeing his plan adopted.
Franklin was the author of the "Night-watch" system of our land.
His paper on the frequency of fires, from carelessness and accidents,
with suggestions as to preventing them and, also, extinguishing them,
elicited equal interest in the Junto.
"Your suggestion to organize a company to extinguish fires is a
capital one," remarked Potts, after listening to Franklin's paper. "It
is not only practical, but it can be done very easily; every citizen
must appreciate the measure."
"If I understand the plan," remarked Maugridge, "each member will be
obliged to keep several leathern buckets, in order for instant use,
and strong bags, for receiving goods to be conveyed to a place of
safety, will be provided."
"Yes; and the members must be so well organized and drilled, that when
a fire breaks out, each will know just what to do," added Franklin.
"It will be necessary for the members of the company to meet monthly,
or oftener, to exchange views and make suggestions as to the best way
of conducting the organization. Experience will teach us very much."
"How many members should the organization embrace?" inquired Scull.
"That is immaterial," replied Coleman; "a large or small number can be
used to advantage, I should say."
"The company must not be too large," responded Franklin. "I should
think that thirty members would be as many as could work to advantage.
If double that number desire to become members it would be better to
organize two companies, to work in different wards."
"And how about money? Can't maintain such an organization without
money," suggested Potts.
"We can raise money for the outfit of leathern buckets and bags by
subscription," replied Franklin; "and we can impose a fine upon
members for being absent from meetings."
"Then, why is not the whole subject fairly before us?" remarked
Coleman. "I move that we proceed to organize a fire-company of thirty
members at once."
Coleman's proposition was adopted unanimously. Franklin discussed the
plan in the _Gazette_, and all the members of the Junto worked hard
for it outside. Within a short time the first company was organized,
then another, and another, the good work continuing until a large part
of the property-owners in town belonged to fire-companies. And this
method continued until the invention of fire-engines, fire-hooks, and
ladders, with other modern implements to assist in extinguishing
fires. Franklin was the originator of fire-companies.
"It is high time that our people were thinking of paving the streets,"
said Franklin, at a meeting of the Junto. "It will facilitate cleaning
"You must give us a paper on the subject, and write it up in the
_Gazette_," replied Parsons. "People must be enlightened before they
will adopt the measure. The mass of them know nothing about it now."
"You are right," responded Franklin; "and it will take a good while to
enlighten them. The expense of the measure will frighten them."
"How expensive will such a measure be? What does paving cost a square
"I am not able to say now; I have not examined that part of it yet;
but I shall. I will prepare a paper for the Junto at the earliest
Franklin had canvassed the subject considerably before he introduced
it to the members of the Junto. In wet weather the mud in the streets
was trodden into a quagmire, and quantities of it carried on the feet
into stores and houses. In dry weather the wind blew the abundance of
dust into the faces and eyes of pedestrians, and into the doors and
windows of dwellings and shops. In his paper, read at the Junto,
Franklin set forth these discomforts, with others, and showed how the
evil would be remedied by pavement. The members of the Junto were
unanimous in supporting his views.
From week to week he discussed the subject in the _Gazette_, literally
giving line upon line and precept upon precept. Nor did he seem to
make much of an impression for many months. But, finally, a strip of
brick pavement having been laid down the middle of Jersey Market, he
succeeded in getting the street leading thereto paved.
"Now I have a project to enlist citizens in paving all the streets,"
he said at the Junto. "I have hired a poor man to sweep the pavement
now laid, and keep it as clean and neat as a pin, that citizens may
see for themselves the great benefit of paving the streets."
"That is practical," exclaimed Coleman. "You are always practical,
Franklin; and you will make a success of that."
"I expect to succeed. After two or three weeks I shall address a
circular to all housekeepers enjoying the advantages of the pavement,
asking them to join with me in paying a sixpence each per month to
keep the pavement clean."
"A _sixpence_ a month only!" responded Potts, who had listened to
Franklin's plan; "is that all it will cost?"
"Yes, that is all; and I think that all will be surprised that the
work can be done for that price; and, for that reason, they will
readily join in the measure."
Franklin went forward with his enterprise, and every citizen appealed
to accepted his proposition; and out of it grew a general interest to
pave the streets of the city. Franklin drafted a bill to be presented
to the General Assembly, authorizing the work to be done; and, through
the influence of another party, the bill was amended by a provision
for lighting the streets at the same time, all of which was agreeable
to Franklin. Here, again, we see that Franklin was the originator of
another method of adding to the comfort and beauty of cities and large
"I will read you a paper to-night upon smoky chimneys," remarked
Franklin at the Junto, as he drew from his pocket a written document.
"Smoky chimneys!" ejaculated Grace. "I wonder what will command your
attention next. A fruitful theme, though I never expected we should
discuss it here."
"It is, indeed, a fruitful theme," responded Franklin; "for more
chimneys carry some of the smoke into the room than carry the whole
out of the top; and nobody can tell why."
"I had supposed it was because masons do not understand the philosophy
of chimney-building," remarked Coleman.
"That is it exactly. The subject is not understood at all, because it
has not been examined. Men build chimneys as they do, not because they
know it is the best way, but because they do not know any thing about
it. For instance, nearly every one thinks that smoke is lighter than
air, when the reverse is true."
"I always had that idea," remarked Potts; "not because I knew that it
was, but somehow I got that impression. But let us have your paper,
and then we will discuss it."
Franklin read his paper, which was more elaborate and exhaustive than
any thing of the kind ever published at that time. It named several
definite causes of smoky chimneys, and furnished a remedy for each.
What is still more remarkable, it suggested a plan of a fire-place or
stove, that might remedy the smoking evil of some chimneys, and save
much fuel in all. Subsequently, he invented what is known as the
Franklin stove, or fire-place, though it was sometimes called the
"Pennsylvania stove." It was regarded as a very useful invention, and,
for many years, was in general use.
"Apply for a patent on your stove," suggested Coleman; "there is much
money in it; and you ought to have it if any one."
"Not I," responded Franklin. "I am not a believer in patents. If the
invention is a real public benefit, the people should have the
advantage of it."
"Nonsense," retorted Coleman; "no one but you harbors such an idea. I
do not see why a man should not receive pay for his invention as much
as another does for a day's work."
"And there is no reason why the inventor should not give the public
the benefit of it, if he chooses," answered Franklin. "Governor Thomas
offered to give me a patent on it, but I told him this: As we enjoy
great advantages from the invention of others, we should be glad of an
opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we
should do freely and generously."
"And nobody will ever thank you for it," added Coleman.
"I don't ask them to thank me for it; I give it to them without asking
one thank-you for it," replied Franklin, who was in a very happy mood.
"Well," added Coleman, "the more I see of you, the more I am satisfied
that there is but one Ben Franklin in these parts."
In brief, we may add here, that Franklin presented the model to a
member of the Junto, Robert Grace, who run a furnace, and, for many
years, "he found the casting of the plates for these stoves a
Still another enterprise which Franklin brought to the attention of
the Junto was the founding of an Academy or University for the higher
education of youth. He wrote often and much for the _Gazette_ upon
doing more for the education of the young. At last, he prepared and
printed a pamphlet, entitled "Proposals Relating to the Education of