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institute my own paper, I wrote some humorous pieces in Bradford's, under the title of the busy body:* and which was continued for several months by Brientnal. I hereby fixed the attention of the public upon Bradford's paper; and the prospectus of Keimer, which we turned into ridicule, was treated with contempt. He began, notwithstanding, his paper; and, after continuing it for nine months, having, at most, not more than ninety subscribers, he offered it to me for a mere trifle. I had for some time been ready for such an engagement; I therefore instantly took it upon myself, and in a few years it proved extremely profitable to me.
I perceive that I am apt to speak in the first person, though our partnership still continued. It is, perhaps, because, in fact, the whole business devolved upon me. Meredith was no compositor, and but an indifferent pressman; and it was rarely that he abstained from hard drinking. My friends were sorry to see me connected with him; but 1 contrived to derive from it the utmost advantage the case admitted.
Our first number produced no other effect than any other paper which had appeared in the province, as to type and printing; but some remarks, in my peculiar style of writing, upon the dispute which then prevailed between Governor Burnet and the Massachusetts Assembly, struck some persons as above mediocrity, caused the paper and its editors to be talked of, and, in a few weeks, induced them to become our subscribers. Many others followed their example; and our subscription continued to increase. This was one of the first good effects of the pains I had taken to learn to put my ideas on paper. I derived this farther advantage from it, that the leading men of the place, seeing in the author of this publication a man so well able to use his pen, thought it right to patronize and encourage me.
The votes, laws, and other public pieces, were printed by Bradford. An address of the House of
A manuscript note in the file of the American Mercury, preserved in the Philadelphia library, says, that Franklin wrote the first five numbers, and part of the eighth.
Assembly to the Governor, had been executed by him in a very coarse and incorrect manner. We reprinted it with accuracy and neatness, and sent a copy to every member. They perceived the difference; and it so strengthened the influence of our friends in the Assembly, that we were nominated its printer for the following year.
Among these friends, I ought not to forget one member in particular, Mr. Hamilton, whom I have mentioned in a former part of my narrative, and who was now returned from England. He warmly interested himself for me on this occasion, as he did like wise on many others afterwards; having continued his kindness to me till his death.
About this period Mr Vernon reminded me of the debt I owed him, but without pressing me for payment. I wrote a handsome letter on the occasion, begging him to wait a little longer, to which he consented; and as soon as I was able, I paid him principal and interest, with many expressions of gratitude; so that this error of my life was, in a manner, atoned for.
But another trouble now happened to me, which I had not the smallest reason to expect. Meredith's father, who, according to our agreement, was to defray the whole expense of our printing materials, had only paid a hundred pounds. Another hundred was still due, and the merchant being tired of waiting, commenced a suit against us. We bailed the action, but with the melancholy prospect, that, if the money was not forthcoming at the time fixed, the affair would come to issue, judgment be put in execution, our de lightful hopes be annihilated, and ourselves entirely ruined; as the type and press must be sold, perhaps at half their value, to pay the debt.
In this distress, two real friends, whose generous conduct I have never forgotten, and never shall forget, while I retain the remembrance of any thing, came to me separately without the knowledge of each other, and without my having applied to either of them. Each offered whatever money might be necessary to take the business into my own hands, if the thing was practicable, as they did not like I
should continue in partnership with Meredith, who, they said, was frequently seen drunk in the streets, and gambling at ale-houses, which very much injured our credit. These friends were William Coleinan and Robert Grace. I told them, that while there remained any probability that the Merediths would fulfil their part of the compact, I could not propose a separation, as I conceived myself to be under obligations to them for what they had done already, and were still disposed to do, if they had the power; but, in the end, should they fail in their engagement, and our partnership be dissolved, I should then think myself at liberty to accept the kindness of my friends.
Things remained for some time in this state. At last, I said one day to my partner, "Your father is perhaps dissatisfied with your having a share only in the business, and is unwilling to do for two, what he would do for you alone. Tell me frankly, if that be the case, and I will resign the whole to you, and do for myself as well as I can." No, (said he) my father has really been disappointed in his hopes; he is not able to pay, and I wish to put him to no farther inconvenience. I see that I am not at all calculated for a printer; I was educated as a farmer, and it was absurd in me to come here, at thirty years of age, and bind myself apprentice to a new trade. Many of my countrymen are going to settle in North Carolina, where the soil is exceedingly favourable. I am tempted to go with them, and to resume my former occupation. You will, doubtless, find friends who will assist you. If you will take upon yourself the debts of the partnership, return my father the hundred pounds he has advanced. pay my little personal debts, and give me thirty pounds and a new saddle, I will renounce the partnership, and consign over the whole stock to you."
I accepted this proposal without hesitation. It was committed to paper, and signed and sealed without delay. I gave him what he demanded, and he departed soon after for Carolina, from whence he sent me, in the following year, two long letters, containing the best accounts that had yet been given of that country, as to climate, soil, agriculture, &c. for he
was well versed in these matters. I published them in my newspaper, and they were received with great
As soon as he was gone, I applied to my two friends, and not wishing to give a disobliging preference to either of them, I accepted from each, half what he had offered me, and which it was necessary I should have. I paid the partnership debts, and continued the business on my own account; taking care to inform the public, by advertisement, of the partnership being dissolved. This was, I think, in the year 1729, or thereabout.
Nearly at the same period, the people demanded a new emission of paper-money; the existing and only one that had taken place in the province, and which amounted to fifteen thousand pounds, being soon to expire. The wealthy inhabitants, prejudiced against every sort of paper currency, from the fear of its depreciation, of which there had been an instance in the province of New England, to the injury of its holders, strongly opposed this measure. We had discussed this affair in our Junto, in which I was on the side of the new emission; convinced that the first small sum, fabricated in 1723, had done much good in the province, by favouring commerce, industry, and population, since all the houses were now inhabited, and many others building; whereas remembered to have seen when I first paraded the streets of Philadelphia eating my roll, the majority of those in Walnut-street, Second-street, Fourth-street, as well as a great number in Chesnut and other streets, with papers on them, signifying that they were to be let; which made me think, at the time, that the inhabitants of the town were deserting it one after another.
Our debates made me so fully master of the subject, that I wrote and published an anonymous pamphlet, entitled, "An Inquiry into the Nature and Necessity of Paper Currency.' It was very well received by the lower and middling classes of people; but it displeased the opulent, as it increased the clamour in favour of the new emission. Having, however, no writer among them capable of answering it, their opposition became less violent; and there being in the
House of Assembly a majority for the measure, it passed. The friends I had acquired in the House, persuaded that I had done the country essential ser vice on this occasion, rewarded me by giving me the printing of the bills. It was a lucrative employment, and proved a very seasonable help to me; another advantage which I derived from having habituated myself to write.
Time and experience so fully demonstrated the utility of paper currency, that it never after experienced any considerable opposition; so that it soon amounted to 55,000l. and in the year 1739 to 80,000Z. It has since risen, during the last war, to 350.0007. trade, buildings, and population, having in the interval continually increased: but I am now convinced that there are limits beyond which paper money would be prejudicial.
I soon after obtained by the influence of my friend Hamilton, the printing of the Newcastle paper money, another profitable work as I then thought it, little things appearing great to persons of moderate fortune; and they were really great to me, as proving great encouragements. He also procured me the printing of the laws and votes of that government, which I retained as long as I continued in the business.
I now opened a small stationer's shop. I kept bonds and agreements of all kinds, drawn up in a more accurate form than had yet been seen in that part of the world; a work in which I was assisted by iny friend Breintnal. I had also paper, parchment, pasteboard, books, &c. One Whitemarsh, an excellent compositor, whom I had known in London, came to offer himself: I engaged him; and he continued constantly and diligently to work with me. I also took an apprentice, the son of Aquila Rose.
I began to pay, by degrees, the debt I had contracted; and, in order to insure my credit and character as a tradesman, 1 took care not only to be really industrious and frugal, but also to avoid every appearance of the contrary. I was plainly dressed. and never seen in any place of public amusement. I never went a fishing or hunting. A book, indeed, enticed me, sometimes from my work, but it was seldom,