תמונות בעמוד

so, than we ought to expect from the unrefined times in which he lived. *

The increasing circulation of the Pennsylvania Gazette, the extensive sale of Poor Richard, and the success of many of the small books which Franklin published, soon placed the finances of Franklin in a very flourishing condition. This enabled him to send for every important work published in England. As he was never an hour in idleness, and seldom entered any place of popular amusement, he found time to study all these solid and useful works. The superior powers with which God had endowed him, enabled him to glean from their pages, and store up in his memory, all that was most valuable. By these indefatigable studies, he was rapidly becoming one of the most learned of men, and was preparing himself for that brilliant career, in which, as a statesman and a philosopher, he stood in the first ranks of those who had been deemed the great men of earth.

*“Poor Richard, at this day, would be reckoned an indecent production. All great humorists were all indecent, before Charles Dickens. They used certain words which are now never pronounced by polite persons, and are never printed by respectable printers; and they referred freely to certain subjects which are familiar to every living creature, but which it is now agreed among civilized beings, shall pot be topics of conversation. In this respect poor Richard was no worse, and not much better than other colonial periodicals, some of which contain things incredibly obscene, as much so as the strongest passages of Sterne, Smollet and De Foe.”-Parton.

His first entrance to public life was as Clerk to the General Assembly, which was then the Legislature of the Pennsylvania Colony. This was an office of but little emolument or honor. His first election was unanimous. The second year, though successful, he was opposed by an influential member.

Franklin, who wished to have every one his friend, was anxious to conciliate him. He accomplished his purpose shrewdly-perhaps cunningly, is not too strong a word to use. Having heard that the gentleman had a very rare and valuable book in his library, he wrote him a very polite and flattering letter, soliciting the loan of it. No man could pen such an epistle more adroitly than Franklin.

After a few days he returned the book with one of his most exquisite notes of thanks. The gentleman was caught in the trap. Charmed with the urbanity Franklin displayed in the correspondence, the next time he met the philosopher, he grasped him cordially by the hand. Though he had never spoken to him before, he invited him to his house.

Franklin, commenting upon this adventure, writes,

“ He ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says 'He that hath once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged,' and it shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove than to resent, return, and continue inimical proceedings."

There was something in this transaction, an apparent want of sincerity, an approach to trickery, which will impress many readers painfully. It was a shrewd maneuvre, skillfully contrived, and successfully executed. The perfect sincerity of a friendly and magnanimous mind is the safest guide in all the emergencies of life.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

Studious habits - New religion-Personal habits—Church of the

Free and Easy–His many accomplishments—The career of Hemphall—Birth and Death of Franklin's son—The Ministry of Whitefield-Remarkable friendship between the philosopher and the preacher—Prosperity of Franklin-His convivial habits, The defense of Philadelphia—Birth of a daughter-The Philadelphia Academy.

FRANKLIN was a perservering and laborious stu, dent, for whatever he read he studied. With increasing intellectual tastes, he found time every day to devote many hours to his books. His reading was of the most elevated and instructive kind. It consisted almost exclusively of scientific treatises, and of history, biography, voyages and travels.

His mind was still struggling and floundering in the midst of religious and philosophical speculations. He seems, from some unexplained reason, to have been very unwilling to accept the religion of Jesus Christ; and yet he was inspired undeniably by a very noble desire to be a good man, to attain a high position in morality. Earnestly he endeavored to

frame for himself some scheme which would enable him to accomplish that purpose.

At this time he wrote,

“Few in public affairs act from a mere view of the good of their country, whatever they may pretend. Fewer still in public affairs act with a view to the good of mankind. There seems to me, at present, great occasion to raise a “United Party for Virtue,” by forming the virtuous and good of all nations into a regular body, to be governed by suitable good and wise rules, which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in their obedience to, than common people are to common laws. I at present, think, that whoever attempts this aright, and is well qualified, cannot fail of pleasing God, and of meeting with success."

Influenced by these exalted motives, he concentrated all the energies of his well informed mind to the organization of a new religion. To this church he

gave the name of “ The Society of the Free and Easy." The members were to be Free from vice, and consequently, Easy in mind. The first article of his creed was that he would have no creed. And yet this religion, which drew an antagonistic distinction between faith and works, denouncing all faith at the same time announced that its fundamental and absolutely essential faith was that piety con

« הקודםהמשך »