Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

66 VIRTUE alone is sufficient to make a man great, glorious, and happy He that is acquainted with Cato, as I am, cannot help thinking, as I do now, and will acknowledge he deserves the name, without being honored by it. Cato is a man whom fortune has placed in the most obscure part of the country. His circumstances are such, as only put him above necessity, without affording him many superfiuities : yet who is greater than Cato? I happened but the other day to be at a house in town, where among others, were met some of the most note in this place; Cato had business with some of them, and knocked at the door. The most trifling actions of a man, in my opinion, as well as the smallest features and lineaments of the face, give a nice observer some notion of his mind, Methought he rapped in such a peculiar manner, as seemed of itself to express there was one who deserved as well as desired admission. He appeared in the plainest country garb, his great coat was coarse, and looked old and threadbare ; his linen was home-spun; his beard, perhaps of seven day's growth; his shoes, thick and heavy, and every part of his dress corresponding. Why was this man received with such concurring respect from every person in the rooni, even from those who had never known him or seen him before? It was not an

exquisite form of person, or grandeur of dress, that struck us with adiniration, I believe long habits of virtue have a sensible effect on the countenance. There was something in the air of his face that manifested the true greatness of his mind; which likewise appeared in all he

id, and in every part of his behaviour, obliging us to regard him with a kind of veneration. His aspect is sweetened with humanity and benevolence, and at the same time emboldened with resolution, equally free from diffident bashfulness and an unbecoming assurance. The consciousness of his innate worth and unshaken integrity, renders him calm and undaunted in the presence of the most great and powerful, and upon the most extraordinary occasions. His strict justice and known impartiality make him the arbitrator and decider of all differences that arise for many miles around him, without putting his neighbours to the charge, perplexity and uncertainty, of law suits. He always speaks the thing he means, which he is never afraid or ashamed to do, because he knows he always means well; and therefore is never obliged to blush, and feel the confusion of finding himself detected in the meanness of a falsehood. He never contrives ill against his neighbour, and therefore is never seen with a lowering, suspicious aspect. A mixture of innocence and wisdom makes him ever seriously cheerful, His generous hospitality to strangers according to his ability, his goodness, his charity, his courage in the cause of the oppressed, his fidelity in friendship, his humility, his honesty, and sincerity, his moderation and his loyalty to the government, his piety, his temperance, his love to mankind, his magnanimity, his public-spiritedness, and, in fine, his consummate virtue, make him justly deserve to be esteemed the glory of his country."

In process of time, Meredith withdrew from the partnership, and Franklin met with friends who enabled him to take the whole concern upon himself, and add to it the business of a stationer. Meanwhile, the business and credit of Keimer became so diminished that he was forced to sell his stock, when he took farewell of Philadelphia, leaving no competitor for Franklin to contend with but Bradford in the trade of that city. The efforts of our young philosopher, however, both as a writer in his own newspaper, now established, and as a printer, were successful. He even obtained the printing of the votes and laws of the Assembly of the state; and thereby was inade fully master of whatever subject became the ground of debate. A discussion concerning a new emission of paper money taking place, he wrote an anonymous pamphlet in favour of the measure which was well received, and contributed to its success. This

obtained for him farther countenance from persons in power, and insured his prosperity. He, however, confesses that at this time he was drawn into improper connexions with the sex, owing, probably, to the disappointment he met with in the object of his first attachment, Miss Read, who had been induced from his neglect, to marry the worthless person already named. But their mutual affection was renewed, although there were formidable obstacles in the way of their union. Her marriage, to be sure, was considered as invalid, the husband being said to have had another wife at the time; yet there was no actual proof of the fact, neither were there of the reports of his death. Over these, and other difficulties, however, they ventured, and were made one, September 1st, 1730. Neither the former claim on the young lady--nor any of its troublesome consequences ever annoyed him, and he found the union everything that could contribute to his prosperity and happiness through life.

And now it was also that Franklin set on foot his first project of a subscription library, drawing up the proposals, and getting them put into proper form. This proved to be the mother of all the North American Subscription libraries,

“ The library afforded me the means," says he,“ of improvement by constant study, for which I set apart an hour or two every day; and thus repaired in some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me. Reading was the only amusement I allowed myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or frolics of any kind ; and my industry in my business continued as indefatigable as it was necessary. I was indebted to my Printing Office; I had a young family coming to be educated, and there had been two competitors to contend with for business, who were established in the place before me. My circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My original habits of frugality continuing, and my father having, among his instructions to me when a boy, frequently repeated a proverb of Solomon, -"Seest thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before Kings, he shall not stand before mean men,” I thence considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encouraged me, though I did not think that I should ever literally stand before kings ; which however has since happened, for I have stood before five, and even had the honour of sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner.” Then follows in the autobiography an entertaining anecdote.

“We have an English proverb that says, he that would thrive, must

ask his wife. It was lucky for me that I had one as much disposed to industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me cheerfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the paper-makers, &c. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was for a long time bread and milk, (no tea), and I ate it out of a penny earthern porringer, with a pewter spoon. But mark how luxury will enter families, and make a progress in spite of principle; being called one morning to breakfast, I found it in a china bowl with a spoon of silver. They had been bought for me, without my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of three and twenty shillings, for which she had no other excuse or apology to make, but that she thought her husband deserved a silver spoon and china bowl as well as any of his neighbours. This was the first appearance of plate and china in our house ; which afterwards in a course of years, as our wealth increased, augmented gradually to several hundred pounds in value."

SCHEME OF VIRTUE.

About this period, Franklin framed what he justly calls the bold design of endeavouring to arrive at moral perfection. As he knew, he says, or thought he knew, right from wrong, he could not see why he might not always do the one, and avoid the other. The following is his scale of virtues and precepts :

1. Temperance. Eat not to dulness; drink not to elevation.

2. Silence.--Speak not but what may benefit others, or yourselí; avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order.- Let all your things have their places ; let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution.-Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality.-Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.

6. Industry.--Lose no time ; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity.--Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and if you speak,--speak accordingly.

8. Justice.-Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation. -- Avoid extremes ; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness.--Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.

11. Tranquillity.-Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents, common or unavoidable.

12. Chastity.
13. Humility.--Imitate Jesus, and Socrates.

On imbibing the scepticism which Collins and Shaftesbury taught him very early in life, Franklin plainly saw, that if the influence of revealed religion was withdrawn, some severe system of personal dison cipline must be substituted for it ; but he declares in his old age, that he never was without some religious principles ; that he never, for instance, doubted the being of a God, or that He governed by his providence that world which he made in wisdom,--that he always believed the soul of man to be immortal, and would be-here, or hereafter, punished or rewarded.

To insure the habit of attention to his thirteen rules of conduct, he considered it would be best, while aiming at the whole, to devote a week's particular attention to each of the virtues in succession and determined faithfully to mark in a book, with a black spot, each day's transgression of that virtue. Thus, in a quarter of a year, he proposed to try his strength upon the whole, proceeding, he says, like a man who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his strength and reach, but works on one of the beds first, and then proceeds to the second.

“I entered upon the execution of this plan for self-examination," says he, "and continued it with occasional intermission for some time. I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish. To avoid the trouble of renewing now and then my little book, which by scraping out the marks on the paper of old faults, to make room for new ones, in a new course, became full of holes, I transferred my tables and precepts to the ivory leaves of a memorandum book, on which the lines were drawn with red ink, that made a durable stain ; and on those lines I marked my faults, with a blacklead pencil; which marks I could easily

« ZurückWeiter »