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BENJAMIN FRANKLIN MADE HIS MARK.
AN EXAMPLE FOR YOUTH.
WILLIAM. M. THAYER
AUTHOR OF "THE BOBBIN BOY", "TALES FROM THE BIBLE", ETC.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY JULIAN PORTCH
ENGRAVED BY BALE & HOLMAN.
LONDON JAMES HOGG & SONS
This book is designed to illustrate the familiar maxim, that "THE BOY IS FATHER TO THE MAN." The early life of Franklin is sketched from his childhood to the time he was established in business, thus showing what he was in boyhood and youth; and the achievements of his manhood are summed up in a closing chapter, to substantiate the truth of the above proverb.
The author believes that the lives of distinguished men may be incorporated into a story, uniting narrative and dialogue so as to be more attractive to the young. John Bunyan was the first to adopt this style, and his inimitable Pilgrim's Progress charms the young reader, not only by its graphic imagery, but also by its alternation of narrative and dialogue. Since his day, others have adopted a similar style, particularly in works of fiction, with success. Why may not truth appear in such a dress as successfully as fiction? Why may not actual lives be presented in this manner as vividly as imaginary ones? The young mind will seize upon a truth or fact that is conveyed in a story, when it will remain wholly indifferent to it as it appears in a simple statement. So the life of an eminent man may engage the attention of this class, if he is made to speak and act for himself, when they would not be interested in it, if it were presented to them in a plain summary of facts.
In this volume, the actual, early life of Franklin is wrought into a story. The imagination has done no more than weave the facts of his boyhood and youth into a "tale of real life." It makes Benjamin and his associates speak and do what biographers say they spoke and did. It simply paints the scenes and acts of which other writers have told.
A conspicuous place is given in the work to the maxims of Franklin, for the purpose of conveying important lessons in regard to the formation of character, and thus stimulating the young in the path of well-doing. Whole volumes of meaning are condensed into many of his wise and pithy sayings.
W. M. T.
The Holiday—The Coppers in Benjamin Franklin's Pocket—Inquiry— Bounding Out—The Toy-Shop Then and Now—The Boy and his Whistle—Resolved to Purchase—The Bargain—Going Home—Making Music—Discussion about the Price—A Pocketful of Good Things— Benjamin crying over his Whistle—A Benefit—What Franklin said of it Sixty Years after—Boys do not Learn from the Past—Other Ways of paying too dear for a Whistle—Deceit and Falsehood— Tippling—Worldly Pleasure 1-8
Talk about School—Brothers at Trades—Benjamin for the Church— Early learned to Read—Long Process of Preparation for the Ministry—"Uncle Benjamin's" Remarks and Offer—Who is "Uncle Benjamin"—A Hundred Years Ago—When Benjamin was Born—Baptized on Same Day he was Born—The Record—Description of his Birthplace— Early Love of Books—His Father's Violin—Poor but Industrious— Seventeen Children—Decision to Enter School—Where it was, and by Whom kept—His Rapid Progress—Mr. Franklin's Trust in Providence— At the Head of his Class—The Boy Father to the Man—Daniel Webster—David Rittenhouse and George Stephenson—Hopes of Benjamin 9-18
Conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Franklin—Decision to Remove Benjamin from School—Trials of Ministers—Bread before Learning—Subject opened to Benjamin—His Feelings—Character of Schools then—Mr. Brownwell's Writing-school—Benjamin's Obedience—His Father Strict—Keeping the Sabbath—Lore and Respect for his Father—Rebuking the Inquisitive Landlord—Erecting Marble Stone to the Memory of his Parents—The Stone replaced by Citizens of Boston—Obedience of the Peel Boys—Harry Garland—Stephenson's Noble Act to his Parents—The Eight Brothers at Inauguration of the Franklin Statue—Progress in Penmanship—Beloved by Teacher 19-28
Put to Candle-making at Ten Years of Age—His Father a Tallow- chandler—Benjamin opposed to it—Importance of Industry—His Father's Hive without Drones—Benjamin's Maxims about Industry in Later Life—"The used key always bright."—"Diligence the Mother of Good Luck"—Bad Luck—Bible View—No Schooling after Ten Years of Age—Cutting Candle-wicks—Where was the Shop—Benjamin desires to go to Sea—His Mother's Veto—An Older Brother went to Sea—Talk with his Father—His Father's Veto—Promise of another Pursuit— Respect for a Paternal "No"—His Sports on the Water—No Prospect of Fame—Giotti Marking in the Sand—Webster's Pocket-handkerchief— Roger Sherman at his Bench—Boys not excused from School by these Examples—Benefit of a Little Knowledge—Saved Benjamin Russell in Thunder-storm—How Stephenson felt for his Son 29-43
THE ROGUE'S WHARF.
"All Abroad"—The Quagmire—Proposal to build a Wharf—The Heap of Stones—Plan to steal them—Time set in the Evening—The Plan executed—The Wharf done—Keeping the Secret—Benjamin's Father finds him out—Benjamin in a tight place—Promises to do better—How the Boys were found out—Benjamin's Reading Habits—What Books liked—Mather's "Essays to Do Good"—Letter to Mather's Son—Boys should be at Home in Evenings—Advantage of Reading—Letter to a Girl on the Subject 44-54
Interview with a Friend—His Ancestors—Their Hardships—Denied Liberty of Conscience—The Bible under the Stool—Leaving the Church of England—Emigration for Religious Freedom—Conversation on Useful Themes at Table—No Complaints allowed about Food—Guests introduced and sensible Remarks made—Effect on Benjamin—The Washburne Family—Benefit of Good Conversation—His Father's Remarks about Food—Benjamin Temperate in Eating and Drinking—"The Water- American"—No Temperance Societies then—Table Talk now—A Table Scene 55-63
CHOOSING A TRADE.
Still Opposed to Candle-making—A Dirty, Simple Business—Wants to do something that requires Ingenuity—His Father and Mother conferring together—"A rolling stone gathers no moss"—Afraid he will go to Sea—Benjamin's Views and Maxims—Opportunity to choose a Trade—Going to see different Trades—Devotes a Day to it—Joiners', Turners', and Bricklayers' Work—Cutlery Shop, his Cousin's—Which Trade he chose—His Father's Decision—Arrangement to learn to make Cutlery—Wise to Consult Taste and Tact of Benjamin—Handel the Musician—Sir Joshua Reynolds—Father of John Smeaton—Opposing a Child's Bent of Mind 64-75
Taken Away from Cousin Samuel—His Brother's Return from England— Setting Up the Printing Business—Proposal to Benjamin—A Long Apprenticeship—Benjamin disposed to turn Printer-boy—His Brother's Offer to Teach Him the Art of Printing—Borrowing Books to read, and sitting up at Night—Mr. Adams's Library and his Kindness— Going to it for Books—Scarcity of Books—Compared with now—Two and a half Books made in a Minute—No Libraries then—Their enormous Size now—Habit of Reading made him punctual—Example of Lord Brougham 76-84
FIRST LITERARY ENTERPRISE.
A Piece of Poetry—Pronounced Good—Proposition to Print his Articles—"The Lighthouse Tragedy"—A Sailor's Song—Printing them—Selling them in the Streets—A Successful Enterprise—His Father opposes—Condemns Poetry in general and Benjamin's in particular—A severe Rebuke—Crestfallen—Conference with James— His Father's Censure a Benefit—Practice of writing Composition excellent—How it Benefited Benjamin, even Pecuniarily—The Farmer's Son and Minister 85-92
Dispute with John Collins—A Bookish Fellow—The Education of Girls—The Controversial Correspondence—His Father finds the Letters—His Criticisms—Collins versus Benjamin—Bought a Copy of the Spectator and studied it laboriously—Sorry that he did not continue to write Poetry—His Father's Counsel—His Economy of Time—A Book always by his side—His Maxims on this Subject— Violating the Sabbath to gain Time for Study—Useful Conversation and Talking Nonsense—Hundreds ruined by a similar cause—Walter Scott hiding Novels from his Father—Pope going to the Theatre— Exceptions to the General Rule 93-103
Proposition to board Himself—Became a Vegetarian by Reading Tryon's Book—Why he did it—How much Money he saved by doing it—Spent it for Books—How much Time saved also—Cocker's Arithmetic—Other Books read at odd moments—His Plan to save Time—His Maxims on saving Time—Aim to be Useful—The English Grammar—Shaftesbury's Works—Benjamin a Doubter—Makes known his Doubts to Collins—Danger of Reading Attacks upon the Gospel 104-113
Starting the Third Newspaper in America—Opposition to it—Number of Newspapers now—Forty Million Sheets from Eight Presses—Seventy-one Miles a day of Newspapers from One Office—Almost enough to reach around the Earth in a Year—Weigh these Papers—Four Million Pounds in a Year—Two Thousand Two-Horse Loads—The New England Courant started—Printer, News-carrier, and Collector—The Club—Incited to write an Article—Tucks it under Printing-office Door—Hears it favourably commented on—Writes other Articles—This an Incident that decides his Career—Canning at Eton and the "Microcosm"—Similar Paper in Seminaries now 114-122
THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG.
Eager to Own the Pieces—Discloses the Authorship to James— Interview with the Club—Surprise that Benjamin wrote them— Treated with Attention by the Club—Oppressed by James—Trouble with him—Benjamin resolves to leave him—The Printing-office furnishes many Scholars—A New England Divine—Benjamin directed in the Path to which his Native Endowments pointed—So of Lord Nelson—Anecdote of him—Buxton, Wilberforce, and Others—Example of the Author of the "Optic Library" 123-129
Action of General Court to Arrest James Franklin for Libel—The Legislative Order—James imprisoned four weeks, and Benjamin arrested, but discharged—The immediate Cause of the Arrest—Meeting of the Club—Decision to publish the Paper in Benjamin's Name— Shrewd Evasion—Youngest Conductor of a Paper who ever lived—His Thrusts at the Government—Benjamin born in troublous Times— Attacks and Massacres by the Savages—Prepared thereby to act in achieving Independence—Bears in Boston 130-136
A Quarrel—Asserting his Freedom—Statement of the Case—Appeal to his Father—His Father's Decision—Leaves his Brother—Fails to get Work—Charged with being an Infidel—Plans to run away—Conference with Collins—His Plan to get away—Collins's Talk with the Captain of a New York Sloop, and his Base Lie—Benjamin Boards the Sloop—Arrival in New York—His lonely Condition—Guilt of a Runaway—Quarrel between Brothers painful—Case of William Hutton—Lines of Dr. Watts 137-147
ANOTHER TRIP AND ITS TRIALS.
Calls on Printer Bradford in New York—No Work—Recommended to go to Philadelphia—Arranges for the Trip—Starts for Philadelphia—The Drunken Dutchman—His wet Volume and Bottle—Struck by a Squall—A sad Night off Long Island—Benjamin's Feelings—The next morning— Storm subsides—Next night on shore—Advantage of a little Reading— Boys lose nothing by spending leisure Hours in Reading—The Young Man in Maine—Discipline of the Mind—Case of Gibbon—What Boys say—Sir Walter Scott in Boyhood, and his warning Words— Benjamin leaving Amboy—Fifty Miles on Foot—Suspected of being a Runaway—Reaches the Quack Doctor's Tavern—Arrival at Burlington—The Gingerbread Woman—The Boat gone—Going back to the Gingerbread Woman—His Walk—The unexpected Boat and his Passage—In Cooper's Creek at Midnight—Reached Philadelphia on Sunday Morning—The Shilling—The Boy and his Loaf—Going up Market Street with a Baker's Loaf under each Arm—Miss Read—Asleep in a Quaker Church—Suspected again of being a Runaway—First Night in Philadelphia 148-166
Call upon Andrew Bradford—His Surprise—Disappointment—Directed to Keimer—The Interview—Advantage of Thoroughness—Benjamin did things well—Bradford's Talk with Keimer—Keimer ensnared—Benjamin makes a Disclosure—Keimer astonished—Repairing a Printing-press— At work for Keimer—Goes to Board at Mr. Read's—His Power of Observation—Stephenson like him—William Hutton again and his Dulcimer—Perseverance—Not proud—How many Boys would have done—Maxims 167-175
NEWS FROM HOME, AND RETURN.
The Unexpected Letter—Benjamin's Reply—Governor Keith calls to see him—Surprise of Keimer—Invites him to the Tavern—Advises him to set up Business for Himself—Benjamin's Objections overruled—Decides to return to Boston to ask his Father's Assistance—How the Governor learned of Benjamin—His Return to Boston—Joy at Home—His gentlemanly appearance—Goes to his Brother's Printing-office— Cold Reception—Interview with the Workmen—Exhibition of his Silver Coin—His Watch—The Dollar "Treat"—James incensed—Interview with his Mother—Stating Business to his Father, and giving him the Governor's Letter—His Father's Talk with Captain Homes—His Father's Denial—Collins returns with him 176-178
Sails for New York—Stops at Newport and visits his Brother—The New Passengers—The Old Quaker Lady's Attention—A Narrow Escape—Arrival in New York—Collins there first and intoxicated—Makes a Confession to Benjamin—Owns that he gambles—Loses all his Money—Message from Governor Burnet—Benjamin goes to see him—Trip to Philadelphia— Collects Vernon's Debt—Takes Collins to board with him—Throws Collins into the River Delaware—The Fate of Collins—Interview with Governor Keith—The Governor promises to set him up in Business. 188-195
A LITERARY GAME.
The Three Associates—Their Characters—Discussion about Poets and Poetry—A Proposition to Paraphrase the Eighteenth Psalm—Osborne's Prejudice, and how to prove him—Benjamin reads Ralph's Piece as his own—The Success of the Ruse—Subsequent Interview of Benjamin and Ralph—Their Delight over the Result—The Exposure of Osborne at the next Meeting—His Mortification—Fate of Watson and Osborne— Advantage of such Literary Clubs 196-203
GOING TO ENGLAND.
Interview with Governor Keith—Arrangements to go to England in the Annis—Only one vessel a year to sail—Still works for Keimer—The latter a singular Man—Experiment of a Vegetable Diet—Keimer's Abhorrence of it—Eats the whole of a Pig at last—How Benjamin came to relinquish a Vegetable Diet—Courting Miss Read—Her Mother objects to Engagement—Ralph resolves to go with him—Four or Five Printing-offices then, and Two or Three Thousand now—The Governor's Letters—Set Sail—Arrival in London—Discovers that his Letters are Worthless—The Governor a Deceiver—Tells his Story to Denham—Goes to Work in a Printing-office—An Advantage of written Composition— His "Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain"—Won him Fame—Bargain with a Bookseller—Beer-drinking in the Office— Benjamin's Opposition to it—He wrought a Reform—His Firmness and Independence—Swimming—Drawn a Mile by his Kite on the Water— Advised to open a Swimming-School—Decides on Returning to America—A Scene forty years after 204-219
FAREWELL TO ENGLAND.
Arrival in Philadelphia—Calls on Keimer—Meets Governor Keith in the Street—Interview with Miss Read—His want of Fidelity—Denham opened a Store, and Benjamin was his Clerk—The Sickness of both—Denham dies—Benjamin thrown out of Business—Returns to his Trade, and works for Keimer—Legacy from Denham—His Fidelity always pleased his Employers—Many Youth do not care for the Employer's Success—Fidelity one Secret of Benjamin's Success—The Oxford Student—Dangers of Theatrical Amusements and Bad Company—Trouble with Keimer—Refuses to work for him—Arrangements to go into Business with Meredith 220-229
SETTING UP BUSINESS.
The Inventory—Keimer's Message—At Burlington—Friends made there—Interview with the Surveyor-general—Opening his Office— Samuel Mickle—His Croaking—The Result—Poetical Notice in the Printing-office—His Resolution in the Outset—His Industry— Prophecies about Failure—The Every-Night Club—The Lounger rebuked—Franklin never above his Business—Case of Judge Marshall—Economy—How he began to Keep House—Maxims— Integrity—The Slanderer turned away—Socrates and Archelaus— Business prosperous—Hopes and Fears—Coleman and Grace, and their Offer—Talk with Meredith, and the Latter leaves 230-243
A Literary Club—What Franklin said of it—A New Proposition for a Library—Scarcity of Books—Franklin the Father of Circulating Libraries—Size of the First Library now—Questions asked by the "Junto"—Their Practical Character—Questions Discussed—Members limited to Twelve—No Improvement on the "Junto"—Franklin's Hand seen in it—All but one or two Members became Respectable, and most of them distinguished Men—Studying French, Italian, and Spanish— Playing Chess—Studying Latin—The "Junto" Copied in England— Canning—Franklin begins to think more of Religion—Doubting his Doubts—A Minister calls upon him—Goes to Meeting—The Fatal Sermon—Power of Conscience—Prays, and his Form of Prayer— His Book of Goodness—Rules of Conduct, and what they show 244-253
The Printer Boy and Man—His Brother reconciled to him—Rears his Nephew—Holds important Offices—Refuses Patent of a Stove—Gift to English Clergyman—Improves Street Lamps—Forms Fire-Company— Organizes Militia—A Schedule of the Offices he filled and the Honours he Won—Honoured in France, and all Europe—Societies and Towns named after him—A Library Presented to the Town of Franklin, Mass.—His Remark about more Sense than Sound— Washington's Praise of him—Action of Congress—Demonstrations of Respect in France—A Benjamin truly, and not a Ben-Oni— Regretting his early disregard of Religion—His Benevolence— Emptied his Pockets for Whitefield—His Humanity, and Words of a Biographer—His Reverence for God in High Places—Proposed the First Fast—Advocates Prayers in the National Convention—The Young Man at his Death-bed—His Last Words for the Bible 254-264
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
"HOW MUCH DID YOU GIVE FOR YOUR WHISTLE?" Frontispiece
MEDALLION OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Vignette Title
THE ROGUE'S WHARF Page 44
THE MYSTERIOUS CONTRIBUTOR 123
FRANKLIN SAVING THE DUTCHMAN 149
MISS READ'S FIRST GLIMPSE OF HER FUTURE HUSBAND 162
ANECDOTE OF DR. MATHER AND FRANKLIN—HUMILITY "BEATEN IN!" 186
"SAWDUST PUDDING"—ANECDOTE OF FRANKLIN'S INDEPENDENCE 242
It was a bright, welcome holiday to little Benjamin Franklin, when his kind parents put some coppers into his pocket, to spend as he saw fit. Possibly it was the first time he was ever permitted to go out alone into the streets of Boston with money to spend for his own pleasure; for he was now but seven years old.
"Can I have more coppers when these are gone?" he inquired.
"No," replied his mother, "you have quite as many now as will be for your welfare, I think. You must be a good boy, and keep out of mischief."
"What are you going to buy?" asked an older brother; and without waiting for a reply, he answered the question himself, by saying, "Candy, of course."
"Lay out your money wisely," added his mother; "I shall want to see how much wisdom you display in your purchases. Remember 'all is not gold that glitters.'"
His mother had scarcely ceased speaking, when Benjamin bounded out of the house, eager to enjoy the anticipated pleasures of the day. Like other boys, on such occasions, his head was filled with bewitching fancies, and he evidently expected such a day of joy as he never had before. First in his thoughts stood the toy-shop, into the windows of which he had often looked wistfully, although it was a small affair compared with the Boston toy-shops of the present day. Every article in it could have been examined in one or two hours, while now it would take as many days to view all the articles in one of these curiosity-shops. It is almost wonderful, and even fabulous, this multiplication of playthings for the children. There seems to be no end to them, and many a girl and boy have been put to their "wits' end" to know what to choose out of the thousands of articles arranged on the shelves.
Benjamin had not proceeded far before he met a boy blowing away upon, a new-bought whistle, as if its music were sweeter than the voice of lark or nightingale. He could scarcely help envying him the happiness of owning so valuable a treasure. He stopped and looked at him with an expression of delight, and they exchanged glances that showed a genuine sympathy springing up between them. At once he resolved to possess a similar musical instrument, as I suppose it may be called; and away he hastened to the toy-shop, knowing that it must have been purchased there.
"Any whistles?" he inquired.
"Plenty of them," answered the proprietor, with a smile, as he brought forth a number, to the amazement of his little customer.
"I will give you all the money I have for one," said Benjamin, without waiting to inquire the price, so enthusiastic was he to become the possessor of such a prize.
"Ah! all you have?" responded the merchant. "Perhaps you have not so much as I ask for them. You see these are very nice whistles."
"I know it," added Benjamin, "and I will give you all the money I have for one," still more afraid that he should not be able to obtain one.
"How much money have you?"
Benjamin told him honestly just how much he had, and the merchant agreed to give him a whistle in exchange for it.
Never was a child more delighted than he, when the bargain was made. He tried every whistle, that he might select the one having the most music in it; and when his choice was settled, he turned his steps towards home. He thought no more of other sights and scenes, and cared not for sweetmeats and knick-knacks, now that he owned this wonderful thing. He reached home and hurried into the house, blowing his whistle lustily as he went, as if he expected to astonish the whole race of Franklins by the shrillness, if not by the sweetness, of his music.
"What have you there, Benjamin?" inquired his mother.
"A whistle," he answered, hardly stopping his blowing long enough to give a reverent reply.
"You got back quick, it seems to me," she continued. "Have you seen all that is to be seen?"
"All I want to see," he answered; which was very true. He was so completely carried away with his whistle that he had lost all his interest in everything else belonging to the holiday. His cup of delight was running over now that he could march about the house with musical sounds of his own making.
"How much did you give for your whistle?" asked one of his cousins, who was present.
"All the money I had," he replied.
"What!" exclaimed his brother, "did you give all your money for that little concern?"
"Yes, every cent of it."
"You are not half so bright as I thought you were," continued his brother. "It is four times as much as the whistle is worth."
"You should have asked the price of it, in the first place," said his mother. "Some men will take all the money they can get for an article. Perhaps he did not ask so much as you gave for it."
"If you had given a reasonable price for it," said his brother, "you might have had enough left to have bought a pocketful of good things."
"Yes," added his cousin, "peppermints, candy, cakes, and more perhaps; but it is the first time he ever went a shopping on a holiday."
"I must confess you are a smart fellow, Ben" (as he was familiarly called by the boys), "to be taken in like that," continued his brother, rather deridingly. "All your money for that worthless thing, that is enough to make us crazy! You ought to have known better. Suppose you had had twice as much money, you would have given it all for the whistle, I suppose, if this is the way you trade."
"Perhaps he would have bought two or three of them in that case," said his cousin, at the same time looking very much as if he intended to make sport of the young whistler.
By this time Benjamin, who had said nothing in reply to their taunts and reproofs, was running over with feeling, and he could hold in no longer. He burst into tears, and made even more noise by crying than he had done with his whistle. Both their ridicule and the thought of having paid so much more than he ought for the article, overcame him, and he found relief in tears. His mother came to the rescue, by saying—
"Never mind, Benjamin, you will understand better next time. We must all live and learn. Perhaps you did about as well as most boys of your age would."
"I think so, too," said his cousin; "but we wanted to have a little sport, seeing it is a holiday. So wipe up, 'Ben,' and we will have a good time yet."
On the whole, it was really a benefit that Benjamin paid too much for his whistle. For he learned a lesson thereby which he never forgot. It destroyed his happiness on that holiday, but it saved him from much unhappiness in years to come. More than sixty years afterwards, when he was in France, he wrote to a friend, rehearsing this incident of his childhood, and said—
"This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Don't give too much for the whistle; and I saved my money.
"As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many who gave too much for the whistle.
"When I saw one too ambitious of court favour, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and, perhaps, his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, This man gives too much for his whistle.
"When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, He pays, indeed, said I, too much for his whistle.
"If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, Alas! say I, he has paid dear, very dear for his whistle.
"When I see a beautiful, sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, What a pity, say I, that she should pay so much for a whistle!
"In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistle."
Thus Benjamin made a good use of one of the foolish acts of his boyhood, which tells well for both his head and heart. Many boys are far less wise, and do the same foolish thing over and over again. They never learn wisdom from the past. Poor, simple, pitiable class of boys!
Let the reader prove himself another Benjamin Franklin in this respect. Remember that there is more than one way to pay too dear for a whistle, and he is wisest who tries to discover them all.
When a boy equivocates, or deceives, to conceal some act of disobedience from his parents or teachers, and thereby lays the foundations for habitual untruthfulness, he pays too dear for the whistle; and he will learn the truth of it when he becomes older, and cannot command the confidence of his friends and neighbours, but is branded by them as an unreliable, dishonest man.
In like manner, the boy who thinks it is manly to smoke, and fill the wine-cup, will find that he has a very expensive whistle, when he becomes "hail fellow well met" among a miserable class of young men, and is despised and discarded by the virtuous and good.
So, in general, the young person who is fascinated by worldly pleasure, and supposes that wealth and honour are real apples of gold to the possessor, thinking less of goodness and a life of piety than he does of mere show and worldliness, will find that he has been playing with a costly whistle, when age and his last sickness comes, and death confronts him with its stern realities.
"Well, Benjamin," said his father, laying down his violin, upon which he was wont to play in the evening, for his own and children's amusement, "how should you like to go to school and qualify yourself to be a minister? You are as fond of your books as James is of printing, or John of making candles!"
"I should like to go to school well enough," replied Benjamin, after some hesitation; "but I don't know about the rest of it."
"You are old enough now," continued his father, "to think about a trade or profession. Your elder brothers have their trades, and, perhaps, you ought to give your service to the Church. You like to study, do you not?"
"Yes, sir; the best of anything I do." A very correct answer, since he began to read so young, that he could not remember the time when he could not read his Bible.
"It will cost a good deal to keep you at school and educate you, and perhaps I shall not be able to do it with so large a family to support. I have to be very industrious now to make my ends meet. But if you are diligent to improve your time, and lend a helping hand at home, out of school hours, I may be able to do it."
"When shall I begin, if you decide to let me go?"
"Immediately. It is a long process to become qualified for the ministry, and the sooner you begin the better."
"Uncle Benjamin," as he was called in the family, a brother of our little hero's father, sat listening to the conversation, and, at this point, remarked, "Yes, Benjamin, it is the best thing you can do. I am sure you can make very rapid progress at school; and there ought to be one preacher in the family, I think."
"So many people have told me," added his father. "Dr. Willard (his pastor) said as much to me not long ago, and I am fully persuaded to make the trial."
"It won't be a severe trial, either," said Uncle Benjamin. "The thing can be accomplished more easily than at first appears. I tell you what it is, Benjamin," addressing himself to the boy, "when you are qualified for the office, I will give you my large volume of short-hand sermons, and the reading of these will improve your manner of sermonizing."
This uncle had recently come over from England, and was boarding in the family. He was a very intelligent man, quite a literary character for the times, and had been accustomed to take down the sermons to which he listened, in short-hand, until he had preserved a large manuscript volume of them, which he valued highly. It was this volume which he promised to bequeath to his nephew when he should become qualified to enter the ministry.
This interview occurred almost one hundred and fifty years ago, between Benjamin Franklin, who paid too much for the whistle, and his father, whose Christian name was Josiah. The lad was eight years old at the time, a bright, active, intelligent boy, who was more fond of reading than any other child in the family. He was born in Boston, on Sunday, January 6 (Old Style, corresponding to January 17, New Style), 1706, and on the same day was carried into the Old South Church, and there baptized. Both his father and mother were members of that church.
If you ask how it is known that he was born and baptized on the same day, we answer, that on the "Old Boston Town Records of Births," under the heading, "Boston Births, entered 1708," is the following:—
"Benjamin, son of Josiah Franklin, and Abiah, his wife, Born 6 Jan. 1706."
By some oversight or negligence the birth was not recorded until two years after Benjamin was born; yet it shows that he was born on Jan. 6, 1706.
Then we turn to the records of the Old South Church, and find among the baptism of infants the following:—
"1706, Jan. 6, Benjamin, son of Josiah and Abiah Franklin."
Putting these two records together, they establish beyond doubt the fact that Benjamin Franklin was born and baptized on the same day. It has generally been said that we do not know by whom he was baptized, although the rite must have been performed either by Dr. Samuel Willard, or Rev. Ebenezer Pemberton, who were then pastors of the Old South Church. But the fact that the record is made in the handwriting of Dr. Willard would indicate that he baptized him. He was born in Milk Street, opposite the church, so that he had only to be carried across the street to receive the ordinance of baptism.
A picture of the old house in which he was born has been preserved, and it stood on the spot where now rises a lofty granite warehouse, bearing, in raised letters beneath the cornice, the inscription, "BIRTHPLACE OF FRANKLIN." The house measured twenty feet in width, and was about thirty feet long. It was three stories high in appearance, the third being the attic. On the lower floor of the main house there was only one room, which was about twenty feet square, and served the family for the triple purpose of parlour, sitting-room, and dining-hall. It contained an old-fashioned fireplace, so large that an ox might have been roasted before it. The second and third stories originally contained but one chamber each, of ample dimensions, and furnished in the plainest manner. The attic was an unplastered room, where probably some of the elder children lodged. This house stood about a hundred years after the Franklins left it, and was finally destroyed by fire, on Saturday, Dec. 29, 1810.
He was named after the aforesaid uncle, and this circumstance alone was well suited to beget a mutual interest and attachment between them. His love of books early attracted the attention of his parents and others, and they regarded him as a precocious child. On this account the remark was often volunteered, "that he ought to be sent to college."
We have said that Mr. Franklin was playing upon his violin on the evening of the aforesaid interview. He was very fond of music, was a good singer, and performed well upon the violin. He was wont to gather his family around him during the leisure hours of evening, and sing and play. Many cheerful and happy seasons were passed in this way at the fireside, the influence of which was excellent upon his children.
That it would be doubtful whether he could meet the expense of sending Benjamin to college, must appear to the reader, when he learns that he was a labouring man, and had a family of seventeen children, thirteen of whom sat around his table together at one time. Fourteen were older than Benjamin, and two were younger. To support so large a family must have taxed the energies of the father to the utmost, even though no one of them was destined for a learned profession.
It was arranged that Benjamin should immediately enter school, and enjoy the best literary advantages which the poverty of his father could provide. He acceded to the plan with hearty good-will, and commenced his studies with a zeal and enthusiasm such as few scholars exhibit.
The school was taught by Mr. Nathaniel Williams, successor of the famous Boston teacher, Mr. Ezekiel Cheever, who was instructor thirty-five years, and who discontinued teaching, as Cotton Mather said, "only when mortality took him off." The homely old wooden school-house, one story and a half high, stood near by the spot on which the bronze statue of Franklin is now seen, and there was the "school-house green," where "Ben" and his companions sported together. It was probably the only free grammar-school which Boston afforded at that time; for it was only a little village compared with its present size. It then contained only about ten thousand inhabitants, and now it has more than fifteen times that number. There were no stately public buildings at that time, like the State-house, Court-house, Custom-house, Athenaeum, Public Library, etc. Such splendid granite blocks of stores as we now behold on almost every business street, were then unknown; and no shops could be found, as now, filled with the fabrics of every land. There were no costly houses of worship, the "Old South Meeting-house," then about half its present size, being the oldest one in existence at the time.
When Benjamin was born, the streets of Boston were not named. This was not done until the year after, when there were but one hundred and ten of them in number. Now there are a thousand streets, courts, and places. Thus it will be seen that the Boston of that day resembled the present Boston little more than Benjamin Franklin blowing his whistle resembled Benjamin Franklin the great statesman and philosopher.
"I have seen the teacher to-day," said Mr. Franklin to his wife, two or three months after his son entered school, "and he says that he is making rapid progress, and will soon stand first in his class, although others have enjoyed much better advantages."
"I am glad to hear it," answered Mrs. Franklin, with a satisfied air, such as mothers are likely to betray when they know that their children are doing well; "I think he will make a good scholar if he can have the opportunity, though I scarcely see how you will be able to educate him."
"I can hardly see how myself," said her husband; "yet I trust that God will provide a way. At any rate, I hope for the best."
"It will be more and more expensive every year to support him," added Mrs. Franklin, "since his clothes will cost more as he advances in years. The least expense in educating him we are having now."
"That is very true, and I have looked at the matter in this light, all the while not being able to see my way quite clear, yet trusting to Providence for a happy issue."
"It is well to trust in Providence if it is not done blindly, for Providence sometimes does wonders for those who trust. It is quite certain that He who parted the waters of the Red Sea for the children of Israel to pass, and fed them with manna from the skies, can provide a way for our Benjamin to be educated. But it looks to me as if some of his bread would have to drop down from heaven."
"Well, if it comes, that is enough," responded Mr. Franklin, rather drily. "If God does anything for him, he will do it in his own time and way. I shall be satisfied to see him qualified for usefulness in the service of the Church."
Within a few months after Benjamin entered school, he had advanced from the middle to the head of his class. He was so apt to learn, and gave so close attention to his lessons, that his teacher spoke of him as a boy of uncommon promise. He did not stand at the head of his class long, however, before he was transferred to a higher one. He so far outstripped his companions that the teacher was obliged to advance him thus, otherwise his mental progress would have been injuriously retarded. His parents were highly gratified with his diligent improvement of time and opportunities, and other relatives and friends began to prophesy his future eminence.
It is generally the case that such early attention to studies, in connection with the advancement that follows, awakens high hopes of the young in the hearts of all observers. Such things foreshadow the future character, so that people think they can tell what the man will be from what the boy is. So it was with young Benjamin Franklin. So it was with Daniel Webster,—his mother inferred from his close attention to reading, and his remarkable progress in learning, that he would become a distinguished man, and so expressed herself to others. She lived to see him rise in his profession, until he became a member of Congress, though she died before he reached the zenith of his renown. The same was true of David Rittenhouse, the famous mathematician. When he was but eight years old he constructed various articles, such as a miniature water-wheel, and at seventeen years of age he made a clock. His younger brother relates that he was accustomed to stop when he was ploughing in the field, and solve problems on the fence, and sometimes cover the plough-handles over with figures. The highest expectations of his friends were more than realized in his after life. The peculiar genius which he exhibited in his boyhood gave him fame at last. Again, George Stephenson, the great engineer, the son of a very poor man, who fired the engine at the Wylam Colliery, began his life labour when a mere boy. Besides watching the cows, and barring the gates at night after the coal waggons had passed, at twopence a day, he amused himself during his leisure moments in making clay engines, in imitation of that which his father tended. Although he lived in such humble circumstances that he was almost entirely unnoticed, yet it would have been apparent to any observer, that his intense interest in, and taste for, such mechanical work, evinced what the future man would be.
It was quite natural, then, for the parents and friends of Benjamin Franklin to be encouraged by his love of books, and diligent attention, especially when so much intellectual brightness was also manifest. The sequel will prove whether their hopes were wisely cherished.
Benjamin had not been in school quite a year, when his father saw plainly that he would not be able to defray the expense of educating him.
"I might keep him along for the present," said he to his wife, "but I am satisfied that I cannot carry him through. My family expenses are now very great, and they will be still larger. It will make considerable difference in my expenses whether Benjamin is kept at school, or assists me by the labour of his hands."
"I am not surprised at all at your conclusion," replied Mrs. Franklin. "It is no more than I have expected, as I have before intimated. Parents must be better off than we are to be able to send a son to college."
"If they have as many children to support, you might add," said Mr. Franklin. "I could easily accomplish it with no larger family on my hands than some of my neighbours have."
"Do you intend to take Benjamin away from school at once?"
"Yes! I have very reluctantly come to the conclusion that I must. It is contrary to all my desires, but necessity compels me to do it."
"I am sorry for Benjamin," continued Mrs. Franklin, "for he has become much interested in his school, and it will be a great disappointment to him."
"I thought of that much before coming to my present decision; but there is no alternative. Providence seems to indicate, now, the course I should take, and I am the more willing to follow, because the times do not hold out so much encouragement to those who would enter the service of the Church. There are many trials and hardships to be met in the work, and at the present day, they seem to be peculiar."
"There are trials almost anywhere in these times," said Mrs. Franklin, "and I suppose we ought to bear them with fortitude. So far as that is concerned, I think Benjamin will not escape them, let him follow what business he may."
"True, very true, and I trust that I desire to place him where God would have me; but he has certainly hedged up his way to the ministry."
This subject was very thoroughly considered before it was opened to Benjamin. His father was too anxious to educate him to change his purpose without much patient thought and circumspection. Nothing but absolute necessity induced him to come to this decision. The hard hand of poverty was laid upon him, and he must have "bread before learning" for his children.
One evening, as the school term was drawing to a close, Mr. Franklin said to Benjamin—
"I think I shall be under the necessity of taking you away from school at the close of the term. The times are so hard, that I find, with my best exertions, I can do little more than supply you with food and clothes."
"And not go to school any more?" anxiously inquired Benjamin.
"Perhaps not. Such appears to be your prospect now, though I cannot say that God may not open a way hereafter; I hope he will. You are but nine years old, and there is time yet for a way to be provided."
"Why can I not attend school till I am old enough to help you?"
"You are old enough to help me now. I could find a plenty for you to do every day, so that you could make yourself very useful."
In those days boys were put to work much earlier than they are now. They had very small opportunities for acquiring knowledge, and the boys who did not go to school after they were ten years old were more in number than those who did. Besides, the schools were very poor in comparison with those of the present age. They offered very limited advantages to the young. It was not unusual, therefore, for lads as young as Benjamin to be made to work.
"But I do not intend to set you to work immediately," continued Mr. Franklin. "You ought to give some attention to penmanship and arithmetic, and I shall send you to Mr. Brownwell's writing-school for a season."
"I shall like that, for I want to know how to write well. Some of the boys no older than I am have been to his school some time."
"It is equally important that you learn to cipher, and Mr. Brownwell is an excellent teacher of arithmetic. It will not take you many months to become a good penman under his tuition, and to acquire considerable knowledge of numbers."
"I care more about writing than I do about arithmetic," said Benjamin. "I don't think I shall like arithmetic very well."
"Boys have to study some things they don't like," responded his father. "It is the only way they can qualify themselves for usefulness. You would not make much of an appearance in the world without some acquaintance with numbers."
"I know that," said Benjamin; "and I shall try to master it, even if I do not like it. I am willing to do what you think is best."
"I hope you will always be as willing to yield to my judgment. It is a good sign for a boy to accept cheerfully the plans of his father, who has had more experience."
Benjamin was generally very prompt to obey his parents, even when he did not exactly see the necessity of their commands. He understood full well that obedience was a law of the household, which could not be violated with impunity; therefore he wisely obeyed. His father was a religious man, puritanical and even severe in his views and habits; a walk was never allowed on Sunday, and "going to meeting" was one of the inexorable rules of the family.
Benjamin was reared under such family regulations. He was expected to regard them with becoming filial respect. Nor did he grow restless and impatient under them, nor cherish less affection for his father in consequence. We have no reason to believe that he sought to evade them; and there is no doubt that the influence of such discipline was good in forming his character. He certainly loved and respected his father as long as he lived. Many years thereafter, when his father was old and infirm, he was wont to perform frequent journeys from Philadelphia to Boston, to visit him. It was on one of these journeys that he rebuked the inquisitiveness of a landlord, by requesting him, as soon as he entered his tavern, to assemble all the members of his family together, as he had something important to communicate. The landlord proceeded to gratify him, and as soon as they were brought together in one room, he said, "My name is Benjamin Franklin; I am a printer by trade; I live, when at home, in Philadelphia; in Boston I have a father, a good old man, who taught me, when I was a boy, to read my book, and say my prayers; I have ever since thought it was my duty to visit and pay my respects to such a father, and I am on that errand to Boston now. This is all I can recollect at present of myself that I think worth telling you. But if you can think of anything else that you wish to know about me, I beg you to out with it at once, that I may answer, and so give you an opportunity to get me something to eat, for I long to be on my journey that I may return as soon as possible to my family and business, where I most of all delight to be." This was a keen rebuke to a landlord who was disposed to be inquisitive, and interrogate his guests in an ungentlemanly way. But we have cited the incident to show that the filial love and respect which Benjamin had for his parents continued as long as they lived. The last act of affection and reverence that he could possibly perform to them was cheerfully made. It was the erection of a marble stone over their remains in Boston, bearing the following inscription:—
"JOSIAH FRANKLIN And ABIAH his wife Lie here interred. They lived lovingly together in wedlock Fifty-five years; And without an estate, or any gainful employment, By constant labour, and honest industry (With God's blessing) Maintained a large family comfortably; And brought up thirteen children and seven grandchildren Reputably. From this instance, reader, Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling, And distrust not Providence. He was a pious and prudent man, She a discreet and virtuous woman. Their youngest son, In filial regard to their memory, Places this stone. J. F. born 1645; died 1744. AEt. 89. A. F. born 1667; died 1752. AEt. 85."
This stone had become so dilapidated in 1827, that the citizens of Boston supplied its place with a granite obelisk, on which the foregoing inscription may still be read.
It is good for boys, who are very likely to want their own way, to be obliged to obey exact rules in the family. It is a restraint upon their evil tendencies that tells well upon their riper years. It was to such an influence that Sir Robert Peel felt much indebted for his success in life. As an illustration of the obedience he was obliged to practise, in common with his brothers, he relates, that, in his youth, a comrade called one day to solicit their company upon some excursion. He was a young man of handsome address, intelligent, smart, and promising, though quite accustomed to enjoy much pastime. He was a fashionable young man for the times, wearing "dark brown hair, tied behind with blue ribbon; clear, mirthful eyes; boots which reached above his knees; a broad-skirted, scarlet coat, with gold lace on the cuffs, the collar, and the skirts; and a long waistcoat of blue silk. His breeches were buckskin; his hat was three-cornered, set jauntily higher on the right than on the left side." His name was Harry Garland. To his request that William, Edmund, and Robert might go with him, their father replied, "No, they cannot go out." Although the boys earnestly desired to go, they dared say nothing against their father's emphatic "No." He had work for them to do, and he never allowed pleasure to usurp the time for labour. The result is recorded on the page of English history. The three brothers of the Peel family became renowned in their country's brilliant progress. Harry Garland, the idle, foppish youth, became a ruined spendthrift. In this way the language of inspiration is verified. "Honour thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise), that it may be well with thee." The providence of God appears to make it well with the children who obey the commandment. Not the least of their reward is the respect and confidence of mankind which their obedience secures. Men universally admire to witness deeds that are prompted by true filial love. Such an act as that of the great engineer, George Stephenson, who took the first thirty pounds he possessed, saved from a year's wages, and paid off his blind old father's debts, and then removed both father and mother to a comfortable tenement at Killingworth, where he supported them by the labour of his hands, awakens our admiration, and leads us to expect that the Divine blessing will rest upon the author.
When the statue of Franklin was inaugurated, in 1856, a barouche appeared in the procession that carried eight brothers, all of whom received Franklin medals at the Mayhew School in their boyhood, sons of the late Mr. John Hall. They were all known to fame for their worth of character and wide influence. As the barouche in which they rode came into State Street, from Merchants' Row, these brothers all rose up in the carriage, uncovered their heads, and thus remained while passing a window at which their excellent and revered mother sat,—an act of filial regard so impressive and beautiful as to fill the hearts of beholders with profound respect for the affectionate sons.
Benjamin was taken away from school, agreeably to his father's decision, and sent to Mr. Brownwell, to perfect himself in arithmetic and penmanship. Less than a year he had attended the grammar-school, with little or no prospect of returning to his studies. But the disappointment was somewhat alleviated by the advantages offered at Mr. Brownwell's writing class. Here he made rapid progress in penmanship, though he failed in mastering the science of number. He had more taste, and perhaps tact, for penmanship than he had for arithmetical rules and problems, and this may account for the difference of his improvement in the two branches.
We should have remarked that Benjamin endeared himself to his teacher while he was a member of the public school, and it was with regret that the latter parted with his studious pupil. His close attention to his duties, and his habitual good deportment, in connection with his progress, made him such a scholar as teachers love.
When Benjamin was ten years old he had acquired all the education his father thought he could afford to give him. He could write a very good hand, and read fluently, though his knowledge of arithmetic was very limited indeed.
"Are you about ready, Benjamin, to come into the shop and help me?" inquired his father, at the dinner table.
"Am I not going to Mr. Brownwell's school any longer?" he asked, instead of replying to his father's question,—a Yankee-like way of doing things, truly.
"I think the close of this term will complete the education I am able to give you," replied his father. "You will fare, then, better than your brothers, in respect to schooling."
"I had rather not go into the shop," said Benjamin. "I think I shall not like to make candles, and I really wish you would engage in some other business."
"And starve, too," said his father. "In such times as these we must be willing to do what will insure us a livelihood. I know of no other business that would give me a living at present, certainly none that I am qualified to pursue."
Mr. Franklin was a dyer by trade, in England, and designed to continue it when he removed to America, about the year 1685. But he found, on arriving at Boston, that it would be quite impossible for him to support his family at this trade. The country was new, and the habits of the people were different from those of the English, so that the dyeing business could receive but little patronage. The next pursuit that presented itself, with fair promises of success, was that of "tallow-chandler and soap-boiler;" not so cleanly and popular a business as some, but yet necessary to be done, and very useful in its place; and this was enough for such a man as Mr. Franklin to know. He cared very little whether the trade was popular, so long as it was indispensable and useful. To him no business was dishonourable, if the wants of society absolutely demanded it.
"Well, I should rather make soap and candles than starve," said Benjamin; "but nothing else could make me willing to follow the business."
"One other thing ought to make you willing to do such work," added his father. "You had better do this than do nothing, for idleness is the parent of vice. Boys like you should be industrious, even if they do not earn their bread. It is better for them to work for nothing than not to work at all."
"I think they may save their strength till they can earn something," said Benjamin. "People must like to work better than I do, to work for nothing."
"You do not understand me," continued Mr. Franklin. "I mean to say, it is so important for the young to form industrious habits, that they had better work for nothing than to be idle. If they are idle when they are young, they will be so when they become men, and idleness will finally be their ruin. 'The devil tempts all other men, but idle men tempt the devil,' is an old and truthful proverb, and I hope you will never consent to verify it."
Mr. Franklin had been a close observer all his life, and he had noticed that industry was characteristic of those who accomplished anything commendable. Consequently he insisted that his children should have employment. He allowed no drones in his family hive. All had something to do as soon as they were old enough to toil. Under such influences Benjamin was reared, and he grew up to be as much in love with industry as his father was. Some of his best counsels, and most interesting sayings, when he became a man, related to this subject. The following are among the maxims which he uttered in his riper years:—
"Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labour wears; while the used key is always bright."
"But dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."
"If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality."
"Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry all easy; and he that ariseth late must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night; while laziness travels so slowly, that poverty soon overtakes him."
"At the working man's house hunger looks in, but dares not enter."
"Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry."
"One to-day is worth two to-morrows."
"Drive thy business, let not thy business drive thee."
"God helps them that help themselves."
These are very beautiful and expressive sentences, and they show that Benjamin Franklin thought as much of industry in his manhood as his father did a quarter of a century before. Take the first, in which he compares slothfulness to rust, which will consume iron tools or machinery faster than their constant use will. As the use of a hoe or a spade keeps it polished, so the habitual exercise of the powers of human nature preserves them in a good condition. A key that is cast aside soon rusts, and is spoiled, but "the used key is always bright." It is more fit for use because it has been used.
How true it is that "hunger dare not enter the working-man's house!" By the sweat of his brow he earns his daily bread, and his children do not cry with hunger. It is the lazy man's table that has no bread. His children rise up hungry, and go to bed supperless. God himself hath said, "If any would not work, neither should he eat."
"Diligence is the mother of good luck." Another gem of wisdom that commands our acquiescence. How common for the indolent to complain of "bad luck!" Their families need the necessaries of life, as both a scanty table and rent apparel bear witness, and they cast the blame upon "ill luck," "misfortune," "unavoidable circumstances," or something of the kind. Many men whose faces are reddened and blotched by intemperance, begotten in the barroom where they have worse than idled away days and weeks of precious time, are often heard to lament over their "bad luck," as if their laziness and intemperance were not the direct cause of their misery. But it is not often that the diligent experience "bad luck." They receive a reward for their labours, and thrift and honour attend their steps, according as it is written in the Bible: "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat. Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."
But we need not enlarge upon these sayings of Franklin. They are all charged with wisdom, and might be expanded into volumes. The more we study them, the more beauty we perceive.
It was settled that Benjamin should assist his father in the manufacture of candles, notwithstanding his disinclination to engage in the business. His prospects of more schooling were thus cut off at ten years of age, and now he was obliged to turn his attention to hard work. It was rather an unpromising future to a little boy. No more schooling after ten years of age! What small opportunities in comparison with those enjoyed by nearly every boy at the present day! Now they are just beginning to learn at this early age. From ten they can look forward to six or eight years of golden opportunities in the school-room. Does the young reader appreciate the privileges which he enjoys?
"To-morrow for the work-shop, Benjamin!" exclaimed Mr. Franklin, with a tone of pleasantry, on the evening before he was initiated into the mysteries of making candles. "I am full of business, and need another hand very much at present."
"You can't expect much help from me," said Benjamin, "till I learn how to do the work. So I am thinking you will continue to be hurried for a while, unless you have another hand besides me."
"You can do what I shall set you about just as well as a boy, or even a man, who had worked at the business for a year."
"I wonder what that can be, that is so easy!" added Benjamin, with some surprise.
"You can cut the wicks, fill the moulds for cast-candles, keep the shop in order, run hither and thither upon errands, and do other things that will save my time, and thus assist me just as much as a man could in doing the same things."
"I am sure," said Mrs. Franklin, who had been listening to the conversation attentively, "that is inducement enough for any boy, but a lazy one, to work. You can make yourself about as useful to your father as a man whom he would have to pay high wages."
"You will aid me just as much in going errands," said his father, "as in doing anything else. I have a good deal of such running to do, and if you do it, I can be employed in the more important part of my business, which no one else can attend to. Besides, your nimble feet can get over the ground much quicker than my older and clumsier ones, so that you can really perform this part of the business better than I can myself."
Benjamin made no reply to these last remarks, although he was more favourably impressed, after hearing them, with the tallow-chandler's calling. On the following day he entered upon his new vocation, and, if "variety is the spice of life," then his first day in the shop had a plenty of spice. The shop was situated at the corner of Hanover and Union Streets, having the sign of a large blue ball, bearing the inscription:
1698 JOSIAS FRANKLIN 1698.
He cut wicks, filled moulds, performed errands, and played the part of general waiter, in which there was much variety. And this was his work for successive weeks, very little of his time running to waste. Do you ask how he likes it? The following conversation with his mother will answer.
"I don't like it at all, mother,—no better than I thought I should," he said. "I wish I could do something else."
"What else is there for you to do, Benjamin?" replied his mother. "What would you like to do?"
"I would like to go to sea."
"Go to see what?" she inquired, as if she did not understand him at first.
"Go on a voyage to Europe, or the East Indies."
"What!" exclaimed his mother, exhibiting surprise, for she had not dreamed that her son had any inclination to go to sea. "Want to be a sailor? What put that into your head?"
"I have always thought I should like to go to sea," he answered; "and I am so tired of making candles that I want to go now more than ever."
"I am astonished, Benjamin. You might know that I should never give my consent to that. I should almost as lief bury you. And how can you want to leave your good home, and all your friends, to live in a ship, exposed to storms and death all the time?"
"It is not because I do not love my home and friends, but I have a desire to sail on a voyage to some other country. I like the water, and nothing would suit me so well as to be a cabin-boy."
"There, Benjamin, you must never say another word about it," continued his mother; "and you must not think any more about going; for I shall never give my consent, and I know your father never will. It was almost too much for me when your brother broke away from us, and went to sea. I could not pass through another such trial. So you must not persist in your wish, if you would not send me down to the grave." And here his mother alluded to one of the most bitter experiences of her life, when a son older than Benjamin became restless at home, and would not be persuaded from his purpose of going to sea. It caused her many unhappy hours.
Benjamin had said nothing about this matter to his father, and this prompt veto of his mother put a damper on his hopes, so that he continued to work at the shop, with all his dislike for the business. His parents talked over the matter, and his father was led thereby to watch him more carefully, that he might nip the first buddings of desire for the sea. At length, however, Benjamin ventured to make known his wishes to his father.
"I have thought," said he, "that I should like to go to sea, if you are willing;" and there he stopped, evidently expecting to be refused.
"What has happened to lead you to desire this?" inquired his father.
"Not anything," he answered. "I always thought I should like it,—though I have had a stronger desire lately."
"I see how it is," continued his father. "You have been to the water with the boys frequently of late, and I have noticed that you loved to be in a boat better than to make candles. I am afraid that your sports on the water are making you dissatisfied with your home, and that here is the secret of your wanting to go to sea."
"No, father; I think as much of my home as I ever did, and I like a boat no better now than I did the first time I got into one."
"Perhaps it is so; but boys don't always know when they are losing their attachment to home. You need not say another syllable, however, about going to sea, for I shall never consent to it. You may as well relinquish at once all thought of going, since I strictly forbid your laying any such plans. If you do not wish to be a tallow-chandler, you may try some other business. I shall not insist upon your working with me, though I shall insist upon your following some calling."
"I shall not want to go to sea against your wishes," said Benjamin. "I only thought I would go if you and mother were perfectly willing. I can work at this dirty trade, too, if you think it is best, though I can never like it."
"I am glad to see that you have so much regard for your parents' wishes," said his father. "If your brother had been as considerate, he never would have become a sailor. Children should always remember that their parents know best, as they have had more experience and time to observe. I say again, if you will abandon all thoughts of a seafaring life, I will try to find you a situation to learn some trade you may choose for yourself."
Benjamin was not disposed to enter upon a sailor's life contrary to his parents' counsels, and he submitted to his father's decision with as much cheerfulness and good feeling as could be expected in the circumstances. He knew that it was little use to tease his father when he said "no" to a project. His emphatic "no" usually put an end to all controversy.
There is little doubt that Benjamin had been somewhat influenced by his frolics in and on the water. For some time, as opportunity offered, he had been down to the water both to bathe and take boat-rides. He had become an expert swimmer in a very short time, and not one of the boys so readily learned to manage a boat. He exhibited so much tact in these water feats, that he was usually regarded as a leader by the boys, and all matters of importance were referred to his judgment. It was not strange that he should be more in love with an ocean life after such pastimes with his comrades. Whether he admitted it or not, it is probable that his desire to go to sea was greatly increased by these pleasant times in and on the water.
It was certainly a poor prospect that was before the young tallow-chandler. It was not a trade to call into exercise the higher and nobler faculties of the mind and heart. On that account, no one could expect that Benjamin would rise to much distinction in the world; and this will serve to awaken the reader's surprise as he becomes acquainted with the sequel. A little fellow, ten or twelve years of age, cutting the wicks of candles, and filling the moulds, does not promise to become a great statesman and philosopher. Yet with no more promise than this some of the most distinguished men commenced their career. Behold Giotti, as he tends his father's flock, tracing the first sketches of the divine art in the sand with a clumsy stick,—a deed so unimportant that it foreshadowed to no one his future eminence. See Daniel Webster, the great expounder of the American Constitution, sitting, in his boyhood, upon a log in his father's mill, and studying portions of that Constitution which were printed upon a new pocket-handkerchief; a trivial incident at the time, but now bearing an important relation to that period of his life when his fame extended to every land. Recall the early life of Roger Sherman, bound as an apprentice to a shoemaker in consequence of his father's poverty, with little education and no ancestral fame to assist him,—how exceeding small the promise that his name would yet be prominent in his country's history! In like manner, the little candle-making lad of Boston, in 1717, scarcely appears to be related to the philosopher and statesman of the same name, in 1775. But the hand of God is in the lives of men as really as in the history of nations.
The reader should not make use of the fact that Franklin, and other eminent men, enjoyed small opportunities to acquire knowledge, as a plea that he himself need not be kept in school for a series of years. It is true that a little mental improvement may work wonders for a person in some circumstances, and it should lead us to inquire, if a little will accomplish so much, what will greater advantages do for him? A very little knowledge of electricity once saved the life of Benjamin Russell in his youth. He was an eminent citizen of Boston, born in the year 1761, and in his younger years he had learned from the writings of Franklin, who had become a philosopher, that it was dangerous to take shelter, during a thunder-shower, under a tree, or in a building not protected with lightning-rods. One day, in company with several associates, he was overtaken by a tempest, and some of the number proposed that they should take shelter under a large tree near by, while others advised to enter a neighbouring barn. But young Russell opposed both plans, and counselled going under a large projecting rock as the safest place. The result showed that a little knowledge of electricity was of great service to him; for both the barn and the tree were struck by lightning. But neither Benjamin Russell, nor any one else, from that day to this, would think of saying that there is no need of knowing much about electricity, since a little knowledge of it will do so much good. They might say it as reasonably, however, as a youth can say that there is no need of much schooling, since Benjamin Franklin, and others, became honoured and useful though they did not go to school after ten or twelve years of age. The deep regret of all this class of influential men ever has been, that their early advantages were so limited. George Stephenson, who did not learn to read until he was eighteen years old, felt so keenly on this point, that, when his own son became old enough to attend school, he sat up nights and mended the shoes and clocks of his neighbours, after having completed his day's labour, to obtain the means of educating him.
THE ROGUE'S WHARF.
"All aboard!" exclaimed Benjamin, and so saying he bounded into the boat that lay at the water's edge. "Now for a ride: only hurry up, and make the oars fly;" and several boys leaped in after him from the shaking, trampled quagmire on which they stood.
"We shall be heels over head in mud yet," said one of the number, "unless we try to improve the marsh. There is certainly danger that we shall go through that shaky place, and I scarcely know when we shall stop, if we begin to go down."
"Let us build a wharf," said Benjamin, "and that will get rid of the quagmire. It won't be a long job, if all take hold."
"Where will you get your lumber?" inquired John.
"Nowhere. We don't want any lumber, for stones are better," answered Benjamin.
"It is worse yet to bring stones so far, and enough of them," added John. "You must like to lift better than I do, to strain yourself in tugging stones here."
"Look there," continued Benjamin, pointing to a heap of stones only a few rods distant. "There are stones enough for our purpose, and one or two hours is all the time we want to build a wharf with them."
"But those stones belong to the man who is preparing to build a house there," said Fred. "The workmen are busy there now."
"That may all be," said Benjamin, "but they can afford to lend them to us awhile. They will be just as good for their use after we have done with them."
"Then you expect they will lend them to you, I perceive; but you'll be mistaken," answered Fred.
"My mode of borrowing them is this,—we will go this evening, after the workmen have gone home, and tug them over here, and make the wharf long before bedtime;" and Benjamin looked queerly as he said it.
"And get ourselves into trouble thereby," replied another boy. "I will agree to do it if you will bear all the blame of stealing them."
"Stealing!" exclaimed Benjamin. "It is not stealing to take such worthless things as stones. A man couldn't sell an acre of them for a copper."
"Well, anyhow, the men who have had the labour of drawing them there won't thank you for taking them."
"I don't ask them to thank me. I don't think the act deserves any thanks," and a roguish twinkle of the eye showed that he knew he was doing wrong. And he added, "I reckon it will be a joke on the workmen to-morrow morning to find their pile of stones missing."
"Let us do it," said John, who was taken with the idea of playing off a joke. "I will do my part to carry the thing through."
"And I will do mine," said another; and by this time all were willing to follow the example of Benjamin, their leader. Perhaps all were afraid to say "No," according to the dictates of conscience, now that the enterprise was indorsed by one or two of their number. Boys are too often disposed to go "with the multitude to do evil." They are often too cowardly to do what they know is right.
The salt marsh, bounding a part of the millpond where their boat lay, was trampled into a complete quagmire. The boys were accustomed to fish there at high water, and so many feet, so often treading on the spot, reduced it to a very soft condition. It was over this miry marsh that they proposed to build a wharf.
The evening was soon there, and the boys came together on their rogue's errand. They surveyed the pile of stones, and found it ample for their purpose, though it looked like a formidable piece of work to move them.
"Some of them are bigger than two of us can lift," said Fred.
"Then three of us can hitch to and carry them," said Benjamin. "They must all be worked into a wharf this evening. Let us begin,—there is no time to lose."
"The largest must go first," said John. "They are capital ones for the foundation. Come, two or three must take hold of this," at the same time laying hold of one of the largest.
So they went to work with decided perseverance (the only commendable thing about the transaction), sometimes three or four of them working away at one stone, lifting and rolling it along. Benjamin was never half so zealous in cutting candle-wicks as he was in perpetrating this censurable act. He was second to no one of the number in cheerful active service on this occasion.
The evening was not spent when the last stone was carried away, and the wharf was finished,—a work of art that answered their purpose very well, though it was not quite so imposing as Commercial Wharf is now, and was not calculated to receive the cargo of a very large Liverpool packet.
"What a capital place it makes for fishing!" exclaimed Fred. "It is worth all it cost for that."
"Perhaps it will cost more than you think for before we get through with it," said John. "We can tell better about that when the workmen find their stones among the missing."
"I should like to hear what they will say," responded Benjamin, "when they discover what we have done, though I hardly think they will pay us much of a compliment. But I must hurry home, or I shall have trouble there. Come on, boys, let us go."
At this they hastened to their homes, not designing to make known the labours of the evening, if they could possibly avoid interrogation. They knew that their parents would disapprove of the deed, and that no excuse could shield them from merited censure. It was not strange, then, that they were both afraid and ashamed to tell of what they had done. But we will let twenty-four hours pass. On the following evening, when Mr. Franklin took his seat at his fireside, Benjamin had taken his book and was reading.
"Benjamin," said his father, "where was you last evening?"
Benjamin knew by his father's anxious look that there was trouble. He imagined that he had heard of their enterprise on the previous evening. After some hesitation, he answered, "I was down to the water."
"What was you doing there?"
"We were fixing up a place for the boat."
"See that you tell the truth, Benjamin, and withhold nothing. I wish to know what you did there."
"We built a wharf."
"What had you to build it with?"
"We built it of stones."
"And where did you get your stones?"
"There was a pile of them close by."
"Did they belong to you?"
"I suppose not."
"Did you not know that they belonged to the man who is building the house?"
"Then you deliberately resolved to steal them, did you?"
"It isn't stealing to take stones."
"Why, then, did you take them in the evening, after the workmen had gone home? Why did you not go after them when the workmen were all there?"
Benjamin saw that he was fairly caught, and that, bright as he was, he could not get out of so bad a scrape unblamed. So he hung his head, and did not answer his father's last question.
"I see plainly how it is," continued his father; "it is the consequence of going out in the evening with the boys, which I must hereafter forbid. I have been willing that you should go out occasionally, because I have thought it might be better for you than so much reading. But you have now betrayed my confidence, and I am satisfied more than ever that boys should be at home in the evening, trying to improve their minds. You have been guilty of an act that is, quite flagrant, although it may have been done thoughtlessly. You should have known better, after having received so much good instruction as you have had at home."
"I did know better," frankly confessed Benjamin.
"And that makes your guilt so much the greater," added his father. "Do you think you will learn a lesson from this, and never do the like again?"
"I will promise that I never will."
Thus frankly did Benjamin confess his wrong, and ever after look upon that act with regret. In mature age he referred to it, and called it one of the first evil acts of his life. It was the second time he paid too dear for his whistle.
If seems that the workmen missed their stones, when they first reached the spot in the morning, and they soon discovered them nicely laid into a wharf. The proprietor was indignant, and exerted himself to learn who were the authors of the deed, and in the course of the day he gained the information, and went directly, and very properly, to their parents, to enter complaint. Thus all the boys were exposed, and received just rebuke for their misdemeanor. Benjamin was convinced, as he said of it many years afterwards, "that that which is not honest, could not be truly useful."
We have referred to Benjamin's habit of reading. It had been his custom to spend his evenings, and other leisure moments, in reading. He was much pleased with voyages, and such writings as John Bunyan's. The first books he possessed were the works of Bunyan, in separate little volumes. After becoming familiar with them, he sold them in order to obtain the means to buy "Burton's Historical Collections," which were small, cheap books, forty volumes in all. His father, also, possessed a good number of books for those times, when books were rare, and these he read through, although most of them were really beyond his years, being controversial writings upon theology. His love of reading was so great, that he even read works of this character with a degree of interest. In the library, however, were three or four books of somewhat different character. There was "Plutarch's Lives," in which he was deeply interested; also Defoe's "Essay on Projects." But to no one book was he more indebted than to Dr. Mather's "Essay to do Good." From this he derived hints and sentiments which had a beneficial influence upon his after life. He said, forty or fifty years afterwards, "It gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life." And he wrote to a son of Cotton Mather, "I have always set a greater value on the character of a doer of good, than on any other kind of reputation; and if I have been, as you seem to think, a useful citizen, the public owes the advantage of it to that book." Some of the sentiments of the book which particularly impressed him were as follows: "It is possible that the wisdom of a poor man may start a proposal that may save a city, save a nation." "A mean (humble) mechanic,—who can tell what an engine of good he may be, if humbly and wisely applied unto it?" "The remembrance of having been the man that first moved a good law, were better than a statue erected for one's memory." These, and similar thoughts, stimulated his mind to action, and really caused him to attempt what otherwise would have been impossible.
If Benjamin had been engaged as usual, in reading, on that unfortunate evening, he would have escaped the guilt of an act that turned out to be a serious matter rather than a joke. The habit of spending leisure hours in poring over books, has saved many boys from vice and ruin. Many more might have been saved, if they had been so fond of books as to stay at home evenings to read. It is an excellent habit to form, and tends to preserve the character unsullied, while it stores the mind with useful knowledge.
We shall see, as we advance, that Benjamin became very systematic and economical in the use of his time, that he might command every moment possible to read. The benefit he derived from the exercise when he was young caused him to address the following letter, many years thereafter, to a bright, intelligent girl of his acquaintance. The letter, being devoted to "Advice on Reading," is a valuable one to young persons now.
"I send my good girl the books I mentioned to her last night. I beg of her to accept of them as a small mark of my esteem and friendship. They are written in the familiar, easy manner for which the French are so remarkable, and afford a good deal of philosophic and practical knowledge, unembarrassed with the dry mathematics used by more exact reasoners, but which is apt to discourage young beginners.
"I would advise you to read with a pen in your hand, and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious, or that may be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars on your memory, where they will be ready either for practice on some future occasion, if they are matters of utility, or, at least, to adorn and improve your conversation, if they are rather points of curiosity; and, as many of the terms of science are such as you cannot have met with in your common reading, and may therefore be unacquainted with, I think it would be well for you to have a good dictionary at hand, to consult immediately when you meet with a word you do not comprehend the precise meaning of.
"This may, at first, seem troublesome and interrupting; but it is a trouble that will daily diminish, as you will daily find less and less occasion for your dictionary, as you become more acquainted with the terms; and, in the meantime, you will read with more satisfaction, because with more understanding. When any point occurs in which you would be glad to have further information than your book affords you, I beg that you would not in the least apprehend that I should think it a trouble to receive and answer your questions. It will be a pleasure and no trouble. For though I may not be able, out of my own little stock of knowledge, to afford you what you require, I can easily direct you to the books where it may most readily be found. Adieu, and believe me ever, my dear friend,
"Yes," replied Mr. Franklin, to the inquiry of a friend who was dining with him; "my ancestors were inured to hardships, and I myself am not altogether a stranger to them. I had but little opportunity of going to school, and have always had to work hard for a livelihood."
"So much the better for you now," replied his friend; "for in this new country, and these hard times, you cannot find the support of a large family an easy matter."
"That is true; but I have never regretted coming to this country. The liberty of worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience, is one of the richest blessings, and more than compensates for the trial of leaving my native land."
"Then you experienced the rigours of intolerance there, in some measure, did you?"
"Oh yes; my forefathers adhered to the Protestant faith through the reign of Mary, and were often in great danger from the bitter hatred of the Papists. I sometimes wonder that they did not forfeit their lives in those days of persecution."
"I can relate to you one interesting fact," interrupted Uncle Benjamin, addressing himself to the guest. "Our ancestors possessed an English Bible, which they valued highly, of course; but there was danger of losing it, through the craftiness and hostility of the Papal powers. They held the Protestant Bible in absolute contempt. So, to conceal their Bible, at the same time they could enjoy the reading of it, they 'fastened it open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint-stool.' When our great-grandfather desired to read it to his family, according to his daily custom, 'he placed the joint-stool on his knees, and then turned over the leaves under the tapes.' While he was reading, one of the children was stationed at the door to give the alarm if he should see 'the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual court.' If the officer was seen approaching, the stool was immediately set down upon its feet, and the Bible in this way was concealed from view. For a considerable time they were obliged to read the Scriptures in this secret manner."
"But your father was not thus persecuted, was he?" inquired the friend.
"He was not persecuted to such a degree," answered Uncle Benjamin, "though he had some experience of this kind; and even brother Josias and myself did not escape. Our father's family continued in the Church of England till about the end of Charles the Second's reign, when Josias and I joined the Nonconformists, and subjected ourselves to much contempt."
"And that is the reason I am in this country now," said Mr. Franklin. "We enjoyed few privileges, and frequently our religious meetings were disturbed, as they were forbidden by law. On this account some of my acquaintances resolved to remove to this country, and I decided to join them."
"How long ago was that?"
"It was about 1685, so that you will perceive I am one of the old settlers of America. I have been here long enough to witness many changes, and have no desire to return to my native country. My children can scarcely appreciate how much they enjoy, in comparison with the experience of their ancestors."
Benjamin had often heard the last remark, as a reminder of his obligations to be good and useful. Indeed, this whole tale of persecution he had listened to over and over, and had heard his Uncle Benjamin tell the story of the Bible and stool a number of times. He had come to the conclusion that he was faring better than his father did, although he did not think his own lot remarkably flattering.
This conversation at the dinner-table was a specimen of what frequently occurred there in the way of remark. Mr. Franklin was gratified to have some intelligent friend at his table with him, that they might converse upon some useful topics, for the benefit of his children. When he had no guest at his table, he would call the attention of his children to some subject calculated to improve their minds, thinking, at the same time, that it would serve to draw off their attention from their humble fare. Children are apt to find fault with the food set before them, and perhaps the reader himself has more than once fretted over an unpalatable dish, and murmured for something else. Sometimes they beg for an article of food that is not on the table, declining to eat what is furnished for the family. It was not so at Mr. Franklin's table. He did not allow one of his children to complain of the food, however simple it might be; and his principal method of calling off their attention from the quality of their victuals was, as we have said, to converse upon some sensible theme. Their attention being directed to other things, they were seldom troubled about their food, and became almost indifferent to what was placed on the table. Benjamin said, in his manhood, on referring to this subject: "I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarcely tell, a few hours after dinner, of what dishes it consisted. This has been a great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for the want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed tastes and appetites."
The guests of Mr. Franklin being usually intelligent, their conversation was instructive to the children, who acquired thereby many valuable items of information. The condition and prospects of the country, the oppressive measures of the English government, and the means of future prosperity, were among the topics which they heard discussed. Although it seems like a small, unimportant influence to bring to bear upon tender childhood, yet it left its mark upon their characters. They had more interest in the public questions of the day, and more general intelligence in consequence.
It is related of the Washburne family, of which four or five brothers occupy posts of political distinction in the United States, that in their early life their father's house was open to ministers, and was sometimes called "the minister's hotel." Mr. Washburne was a great friend of this class, and enjoyed their society much. At all times nearly, some one of the ministerial fraternity would be stopping there. His sons were thus brought into their society, and they listened to long discussions upon subjects of a scientific, political, and religious character, though public measures received a large share of attention. The boys acquired some valuable information by listening to their remarks, and this created a desire to read and learn more; and so they were started off in a career that bids fair to reflect honour both upon themselves and their country. Their early advantages were few, but the conversation of educated men, upon important subjects, laid the foundation of their eminence in public life.
"You must give heed to little things," Mr. Franklin would frequently say to his sons, when they appeared to think that he was too particular about some things, such as behaviour at the table, "although nothing can really be considered small that is important. It is of far more consequence how you behave, than what you wear."
Sometimes, if the meal was unusually plain (and it was never extravagant), he would say, "Many people are too particular about their victuals. They destroy their health by eating too much and too rich food. Plain, simple, wholesome fare is all that nature requires, and young persons who are brought up in this way will be best off in the end."
Such kind of remarks frequently greeted the ears of young Benjamin; so that, as we have already seen, he grew up without caring much about the kind of food which he ate. Perhaps here is to be found the origin of those rigidly temperate principles in both eating and drinking, for which he was distinguished all through his life. In his manhood, he wrote and talked upon the subject, and reduced his principles to practice. When he worked as a printer in England, his fellow-labourers were hard drinkers of strong beer, really believing that it was necessary to make them competent to endure fatigue. They were astonished to see a youth like Benjamin able to excel the smartest of them in the printing-office, while he drank only cold water, and they sneeringly called him "the Water-American."
The temperate habits which Benjamin formed in his youth were the more remarkable, because there were no temperance societies at that time, and it was generally supposed to be necessary to use intoxicating drinks. The evils of intemperance were not viewed with so much abhorrence as they are now, and the project of removing them from society was not entertained for a moment. Reformatory movements, in this respect, did not commence until nearly one hundred years after the time referred to. Yet Benjamin was fully persuaded in his youth that he ought to be temperate in all things. Probably there was not one of his associates who believed as he did on the subject. But he began early to think for himself, and this, with the excellent discipline of his wise and sagacious father, caused him to live in advance of those around him. It is not probable that he adopted the principle of total abstinence, and abstained entirely from the use of intoxicating drinks; but he was not in the habit of using it as a daily, indispensable beverage.
That the practice of Benjamin's father, to allow no finding fault with the food at the table, and to lead the way in profitable conversation, was a good one, we think no one can deny. It was very different, however, from much of the table-talk that is heard in families. Conversation is frequently brisk and lively, but it often runs in this way:—
"I don't want any of that, I don't like it," exclaimed Henry. "I should think you might have a better dinner than this."
"What would you have if you could get it,—roast chicken and plum pudding?" inquires his mother, laughing, instead of reproving him for his error.
"I would have something I can eat. You know I don't like that, and never did."
"Well, it does boys good, sometimes, to eat what they don't like, especially such particular ones as you are," says his father.
"I shan't eat what I don't like, at any rate," continues Henry, "I shall go hungry first."
"There, now," added his father, "let me hear no more complaint about your food. You are scarcely ever suited with your victuals."
"May I have some ——?" calling for some article not on the table.
"If you will hold your tongue, and get it yourself, you can have it."
"And let me have some, too!" shouts James, a younger brother; "I don't like this, neither. May I have some, father?"
"And I too," said Jane, setting up her plea. "I must have some if they do."
In this way the table-talk proceeds, until fretting, scolding, crying, make up the sum total of the conversation, and family joys are embittered for the remainder of the day. Finding fault with food is the occasion of all the unhappiness.
Let the reader ask himself how much he has contributed to make conversation at the table proper and instructive. Has he thought more of the quality of his food than of anything else at the family board? If the review of the past reveals an error in this respect, let him learn a valuable lesson from this part of Benjamin Franklin's life. Though it may seem to be an unimportant matter, accept the testimony of Benjamin himself, and believe that it leaves its impress upon the future character.
CHOOSING A TRADE.
"You will have to be a tallow-chandler, after all, when your brother gets married and goes away," said one of Benjamin's associates to him. He had heard that an older son of Mr. Franklin, who worked at the business with his father, was about to be married, and would remove to Rhode Island, and set up business for himself.
"Not I," replied Benjamin. "I shall work at it no longer than I am obliged to do."
"That may be, and you be obliged to work at it all your life. It will be, as your father says, till you are twenty-one years old."
"I know that; but my father does not desire to have me work in his shop against my wishes—only till I can find some other suitable employment. I would rather go to sea than anything."