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which may happen to me, as to so many others My future fortune is unknown but to Him in whose hand is our destiny, and who can make our very afflictions subservient to our benefit.
One of my uncles, desirous, like myself, of collecting anecdotes of our family, gave me some notes, from which I have derived many particulars respecting our ancestors. From these I learn, that they had lived in the same village (Eaton, in Northamptonshire,) upon a freehold of about thirty acres, for the space at least of three hundred years. How long they had resided there, prior to that period, my uncle had been unable to discover; probably ever since the institution of surnames, when they took the ap pellation of Franklin which had formerly been the name of a particular order of individuals.*
This petty estate would not have sufficed for their
As a proof that Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in England, see Judge Fortesque, De laudibus legum Anglia, written about the year 1412, in which is the following passage, to show that good juries might easily be formed in any part of England:
"Regio etiam illa, ita respersa refertaque est possessoribus terrarum et agrorum, quod in ea villula tam parva reperiri non poterit, in qua non est miles, armiger, vel pater-familias, qualis ibidem franklin vulgaritur nuncupatur, magnis ditatus possessionibus, nec non libere tenentes et alii valecti plurimi, suis patrimoniis sufficientes, ad faciendum juratum, in forma prænotata."
"Moreover, the same country is so filled and replenished with landed menne, that therein so small a thorpe cannot be found wherein dwelleth not a knight, an esquire, or such a householder as is there commonly called a franklin, enriched with great possessions; and also other freeholders and inany yeomen, able for their livelihood to make a jury in form aforementioned." Old Translation.
Chaucer too, calls his country-gentleman a franklın; and, after describing his good housekeeping, thus characterizes
This worthy franklin bore a purse of silk
subsistence, had they not added the trade of black. smith, which was perpetuated in the family down to my uncle's time, the eldest son having been uniformly brought up to this employment: a custom which both he and my father observed with respect to their eldest sons.
In the researches I made at Eaton, I found no account of their births, marriages, and deaths, earlier than the year 1555; the parish register not extending farther back than that period. This register informed me, that I was the youngest son of the youngest branch of the family, counting five generations. My grandfather, Thomas, was born in 1598, lived at Eaton till he was too old to continue his trade, when he retired to Banbury, in Oxfordshire, where his son John, who was a dyer, resided, and with whom my father was apprenticed. He died, and was buried there we saw his monument in 1758. His eldest son lived in the family house at Eaton, which he bequeathed, with the land belonging to it, to his only daughter, who, in concert with her husband, Mr. Fisher, of Wellingborough, afterwards sold it to Mr. Estead, the present proprietor.
My grandfather had four surviving sons, Thomas, John, Benjamin, and Josias. I shall give you such particulars of them as my memory will furnish, not having my papers here, in which you will find a more minute account, if they are not lost during my
Thomas had learned the trade of a blacksmith under his father; but, possessing a good natural understanding, he improved it by study, at the solicitation of a gentleman of the name of Palmer, who was at that time the principal inhabitant of the village, and who encouraged, in like manner, all my uncles to cultivate their minds. Thomas thus rendered himself competent to the functions of a country attorney; soon became an essential personage in the affairs of the village; and was one of the chief movers of every public enterprise, as well relative to the county as the town of Northampton. A variety of remarkable incidents were told us of him at Eaton. After enjoying the esteem and patronage of Lord Halifax, he died January 6, 1702, precisely four years before I was
born. The recital that was made us of his life and character, by some aged persons of the village, struck you, I remember, as extraordinary, from its analogy to what you knew of myself. "Had he died," said yon, "just four years later, one might have supposed a transmigration of souls."
John, to the best of my belief, was brought up to the trade of a wool-dier.
Benjamin served his apprenticeship in London to a silk-dier. He was an industrious man; I remember him well; for, while I was a child, he joined my father at Boston, and lived for some years in the house with us. A particular affection had always subsisted between my father and him; and I was his god-son. He arrived to a great age. He left behind him two quarto volumes of poems in msnuscript, consisting of little fugitive pieces addressed to his friends. He had Invented a short-hand, which he taught me, but, having never made use of it, I have now forgotten it. He was a man of piety, and a constant attendant on the best preachers, whose sermons he took a pleasure in writing down according to the expeditory method he had devised. Many volumes were thus collected by him. He was also extremely fond of politics; too mach so, perhaps, for his situation. I lately found in London a collection which he had made of all the principal pamphlets relative to public affairs, from the year 1641 to 1717. Many volumes are wanting, as appears by the series of numbers; but there still remain eight in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and octavo. The collection had fallen into the hands of a second-hand bookseller, who, knowing me by having sold me some books, brought it to me. My uncle it seems, had left it behind him on his departure for America about fifty years ago. I found various notes of his writing in the margins. His grandson, Samuel, is now living at Boston.
Our humble family had early embraced the Refor mation. They remained faithfully attached during the reign of Queen Mary, when they were in danger of being molested on account of their zeal against popery. They had an English Bible, and, to conceal it the more securely, they conceived the project of
fastening it open, with pack threads across the leaves, on the inside of the lid of the close stool. When my great-grandfather wished to read to his family, he reversed the lid of the close-stool upon his knees, and passed the leaves from one side to the other, which were held down on each by the pack-thread. One of the children was stationed at the door, to give no tice if he saw the proctor (an officer of the spiritual court) make his appearance in that case, the lid was restored to its place, with the Bible concealed under it as before. I had this anecdote from my uncle Ben jamin.
The whole family preserved its attachment to the Church of England till towards the close of the reign of Charles II. when certain ministers, who had been rejected as nonconformists, having held conventicles in Northamptonshire, they were joined by Benjamin and Josias, who adhered to them ever after. The res of the family continued in the episcopal church.
My father Josias, married early in life. ile went with his wife and three children, to New-England about the year 1682. Conventicles being at that time prohibited by law, and frequently disturbed, some considerable persons of his acquaintance determined to go to America, where they hoped to enjoy the free exercise of their religion, and my father was prevail ed on to accompany them.
My father had also by the same wife, four children born in America and ten others by a second wife making in all seventeen I remember to have see thirteen seated together at his table, who all arrive at years of maturity, and were married. I was the last of the sons, and the youngest child, excepting two daughters. I was born at Boston, in New-Eng land. My mother, the second wife, was Abiah Fol ger, daughter of Peter Folger one of the first colonists of New-England, of whom Cotton Mather makes hon ourable mention in his Ecclesiastical History of the province, as a pious and learned Englishman," if [ rightly recollect his expression. I have been told of bis haven written a variety of little pieces; but there appears to be only one in print, which I met with many years ago. It was published in the year 167
and as in familiar verse, agreeable to the tastes of the times and the country. The author addresses himself to the governors for the time being, speaks for liberty of conscience, and in favour of the anabaptists, quakers, and other sectaries, who had suffered persecution. To this persecution he attributes the wars with the natives, and other calamities which afflicted the countty, regarding them as the judgements of God in punishment of so odious an offence, and he exhorts the government to the repeal of laws so contrary to charity. The poem appeared to be written with a manly freedom and a pleasing simplicity. I recollect the six concluding lines, though I have forgotten the order of words of the two first the sense of which was, that his censures were dictated by benevolence, and that, of consequence, he wished to be known as the author; because, said he, I hate from my very soul dissimulation.
From Sherburn, where I dwell,
My brothers were all put apprentices to different trade With respect to myself, I was sent, at the age of eight years, to a grammar-school. My father destined me for the church, and already regarded me as the chaplain of my family. The promptitude with which, from my infancy, I had learned to read, for I do not remember to have been ever without this acquirement, and the encouragement of his friends, who assured him that I should one day certainly become a man of letters, confirmed him in this design. My uncle Benjamin approved also of the scheme, and promised to give me all his volumes of sermons, writ ten, as I have said, in the short-hand of his invention, if I would take the pains to learn it.
I remained, however, scarcely a year at the grammar-school,although in this short interval, I had risen from the middle to the head of my class, from thence
*Town in the island of Nantucket.