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some time, Franklin determined to attempt a reply to Collins on paper: and a correspondence was commenced upon the subject. Thus springs the future stream of Franklin's literary character, and his singular ability for temperate and fair discussion. He here again receives the advantage of his father's superintendence of his plans. The papers both of Benjamin and his friend were accidentally seen by him ; to Collins he gave the palm of superior eloquence-to Franklin, of more correct orthography and punctuation; but far from discouraging his future attempts in this way, he stimulated his plans of self-improvement, and fostered his rising ambition.
His other modes of economising time and money were often commendable. He adopted a vegetable diet; and offering to maintain himself for half the money his brother paid for his board, the overture was readily accepted. Out of money saved from this half now paid to him, he contrived to obtain what was to him a considerable fund for the purchase of books: and while his brother and the other workmen took their dinner and other meals, his lighter repast of biscuit or bread and water, a handful of raisins, or a tart, was soon despatched, and afforded him leisure for reading and study, which he could obtain in no other way.
Evidently fond of disputation, and having increased some previous tendency to scepticism by the perusal of Collins and Shaftesbury, he now studied the Socratic method of conducting it, to the great occasional perplexity of his associates; but with great good sense he established a rule for himself, never to use the phrases “ certainly, undoubtedly," or any others that gave an air of positiveness to his opinions; but to substitute"I conceive; I apprehend; it appears to me so and so: it is so, if I am not greatly mistaken.” “ This habit, I believe,” he says,
" has been of great advantage to me, when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been, from time to time, engaged in promoting.
And as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning and sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat most of the purposes for which speech was given to us."
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown proposed as things forgot. So long as this can be fairly reconciled with sincerity, this advice may be attended to; but this last line from Pope may probably suggest rather too close a connexion with the art of the courtier to be unequivocally recommended.
When about four years of Franklin's apprenticeship had expired, we find him contributing material assistance to his brother in the establishment of a newspaper--the New England Courant. This was the second that appeared in the colonies; and Mr James Franklin was seriously dissuaded by many of his friends from undertaking it, on the ground of one paper being enough for America !
It being Benjamin's office to assist in the distribution of the paper, and to communicate between the press and the contributors, he soon imbibed a desire to try his hand amongst the latter, and began by placing anonymous essays, in a disguised hand writing, under the office-door. Great was his delight on finding them attributed to some of the most ingenious and learned men of the town: he returned to his undertaking with fresh vigour, and had even the rare good sense to pause when “ his fund for such performances was exhausted.” He then avowed his productions, and advanced in the estimation of the Bostonian wits accordingly.
But alas for the propensity of our nature to envy! James Franklin soon considered his brother's authorship in this point of view. It increased the sale of his paper; this was solid pudding: but it brought the poor author empty praise; and this, in James's opinion, was dangerous food for his brother. Dise
putes 'arose: the father occasionally arbitrated, and generally in Benjamin's favour: the brother was passionate; our author, now by habit and system, cool, wary, and self-governable. Every service of a common apprentice he could not think it reasonable to require of him who, as a brother and an author, had claims not often united. At length James's affairs were brought to a crisis which presented him the wished-for prospect of liberty. The Massachusetts Assembly, which sat at Boston, took offence at some political remarks in the Courant, and issued a warrant for the apprehension of the printer. Benjamin Franklin was also apprehended, but dismissed with a slight reprimand. The brother was sent to prison, on the Speaker's warrant, for a month, for refusing to give up the author ; during which period Benjamin exerted himself with great zeal for the interests of the paper, boldly canvassing the measures of the Assembly, and evincing the full ability to make the utmost of a persecuted cause. When James was dismissed, it was with an order of Assembly, “ that he James Franklin, should no longer print the newspaper called the New England Courant.” The friends of the new undertaking, pecuniary and litevary, now sat in conclave. The order must not be disobeyed; but the happy circumstance of Benjamin uniting the same family-name with (as it was supposed) the same general interest, suggested a method of eluding it; and James was advised to use his brother's name as printer of the paper, and to cancel his inden tures, that it might upon inquiry appear more feasibly his own. The elder brother however had his share of the family acuteness, and stipulated that new secret indentures should be signed between them for the completion of Benjamin's apprenticeship. This was done; but the future champion of public liberty was on the alert for his own. Quarrels again ensued.
The younger brother too honestly blames himself for “ taking advantage” of his new situation, to allow a biographer to add any thing to the censure ; but he did take advantage of it in their
disputes henceforward. James acted, it is equally evident, a rash and tyrannical part; and under " the mortifying feeling of blows freely administered," there is little ground for surprise that this able and in other respects worthy lad resolved to quit his servitude.
" It was not fair in me to take this advantage,” he says ;
" and this I therefore notice as one of the first errata of my life: but the unfairness of it weighed little with me wlien under the impression of resentment for the blows his passion too often urged him to bestow upon me. Though he was otherwise not an ill-natured man-perhaps I was too saucy and provoking."
His intention of leaving was avowed ; and the brother took care so to prejudice all the neighbouring printers against him, that Franklin could entertain no prospect of employment at Boston. His character also was not in good savour with the ruling powers; and his father was too just a man not to avow his displeasure at his present determination. Covert measures were therefore resorted to in the management of his departure, which was concerted with his friend Collins; a passage being taken for him with the latter, in a New York vessel, as a lad whom an unfortunate intrigue had compelled to leave the place. He was now but seventeen; and escaping on board without molestation, found himself at New York in three days, a perfect stranger to all its inhabitants, almost pennyless, and without a line of recommendation.
But Franklin never wanted confidence in himself, nor despaired of his resources. Finding that one Bradford, the established printer there, had no employment for him, but considered it probable that a son of his at Philadelphia would give him work, he took the boat without hesitation for Amboy, leaving his chest and baggage to come to him by sea. The passage was stormy, and the boat had to pass a night on the coast of Long Island. Like many other young sailors, he now had his quantum sufficit of a seafaring life, and was compelled to digest his yet small acquirements
as a philosopher in the company of a drunken Dutchman, and the only literary companion in the boathonest John Bunyan and his patient Pilgrim. The evening he landed at Amboy, having been thirty hours on the water without food, or any drink except from a bottle of filthy rum, he was violently attacked with fever. His remedy was copious draughts of cold water, which, happening to produce perspiration, succeeded; and the following morning he started on foot for Burlington, fifty miles distant.
The next evening, after a very rainy day, which drenched him thoroughly, he was compelled to put up with the miserable accommodations of one of the lowest American inns by the road-side, and began heartily to repent having quitted his brother. A backward course however was now more impracticable than to go forward. A few miles from Burlington he found a titled innkeeper and traveller, a Dr Brown, who soon diverted his melancholy, and confirmed his sceptical opinions,and with whom he laid the foundation of an acquaintance which continued for many years. Arriving the third day, Saturday, at Burlington, he had the misfortune to find that all the Philadelphia boats had sailed, and that no other was expected to start before the Tuesday following. Asking advice as to his proceeding in the mean time, a charitable old woman, of whom he had purchased gingerbread, offered to lodge him, and supplied him with a plentiful dinner of ox-cheek, for the compliment of a
In an evening walk however he was agreeably surprised to find a boat on the Delaware, sailing for the capital ; he bargained for his passage, and went directly on board. He had not yet conciliated Neptune ; for the wind fell, the boat was drifted into a creek of which her managers knew nothing, and another cold October night was spent by the young adventurer on the water-ushering in a miserable Sunday morning, which showed them they had passed Philadelphia; when they tacked, and reached the city between eight and nine.
pot of ale.