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The opposite page presents a correct view of the press which Dr. Franklin recognized as that at which he worked in London, in the years 1725-6. (See p. 56 of this Life.) This rude and venerable memorial of his fame and fortune, is now deposited with the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, an institution, the establishment of which was proposed and effected by the Doctor in 1744; and the result of the transference of the press from the place of its original existence is this that, while America has been put in possession of the interesting relic, England has obtained a sum of money which is now appropriated to the relief of one pensioner, called the “ Franklin Pensioner,” to which a disabled printer, of any country, is eligible if there be a vacancy, upon his application.
A fac-simile of Franklin's Autograph, in the year 1756, is given below, being another memorial which will be cherished by all his admirers, and indeed by every one who entertains a genuine taste for observing even the slightest records and traces of transcendant worth and achievement.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHER'S EARLY YEARS.
WHETHER contemplated as a successful tradesman, an experimental philosopher, or a distinguished politician, Benjamin Franklin's career, presents points of very remarkable interest, and importance; and hap. pily we possess ample details for gratifying our curiosity concerning him, some of the most valuable of these having been furnished by himself, in his highly entertaining and instructive autobiography.
Franklin was sprung from a family that had been settled for a long series of years, in the village of Ecton, in Northamptonshire, on a freehold of their own, of about thirty acres; and from time immemorial the eldest son had been brought up a smith, a business which his own elder brother followed. It is also worthy of notice, that the subject of the present sketch found that he was himself the youngest son of the youngest son for five succeeding generations.
The family early embraced the reformed religion, continuing protestants through the reign of Mary, when they were sometimes in danger of persecution on account of their zeal against popery. Franklin relates an anecdote which supplies a striking picture of the most intolerant times. Our forefathers,” says he, "had an English bible, and to conceal it and place it in safety, it was fastoned open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint-stool. When my great grandfather
wished to read it to bis family, he placed the joint-stool on his knees, and then turned over the leaves under the tapes. One of the children stood at the door to give notice if he saw the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual court. In that case the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when the bible remained concealed under it as before. The family continued all of the Church of England, till the end of Charles the Second's reign, when some of the ministers that had been ousted for their nonconformity, holding conventicles in Northamptonshire, my uncle Benjamin and my father Josiah adhered to them, and 80 continued all their lives. The rest of the family remained with the Episcopal church."
Josiali married young, and carried his wife with three children to Boston in New England, about 1685. By the same wife he had four children more, born there, and by a second, ten others, in all seventeen; of whom Franklin remembered to have seen thirteen sitting together at table, who all grew up to years of maturity and were married. He himself was the youngest of all the children except two daughters ; having been born January 6th 1706, 0. 8. My elder brothers” says the autobiography, “were all put apprentices to different trades. I was put to the grammar-school at eight years of age, my father intending me, as the tythe of his sons, to the service of the church. My early readiness in learning to read, which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read, and the opinion of all his friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose on his."
Franklin, however, continued at the grammar school rather less than a year; although in that time he had made good progress. The straitened circumstances of his father ill-affording the expence, and his excellent understanding teaching him the folly of educating a child beyond his probable prospects in life, the boy was placed at a respectable school for writing and arithmetic, where he continued until he had completed his tenth year. It now appeared to be his destiny to become a tallow-chandler, like his father. This unsettled him, and together, with the contiguity of the sea, as well as the similar choice of an elder brother, urged him frequently to think of resorting to a like course of life. The father was too wise a parent to constrain a boy's inclinations violently ; exhibiting on the contrary, the practical philosophy of a mind adapted to his circumstances. “He took me" says Frank
lin, " to walk with him, to see joiners, bricklayers, turners, braziers, &c., at their work, that he might observe my inclination, and endeavour to fix it on some trade or profession that would keep me on land. It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools. And it has been often useful to me, to have learned so much of it as to be able to do some trifling jobs in the house when a workman was not at hand, and to construct little machines for my experiments, at the moment when the intention of making these was warm in my mind."
This certainly was one of the most critical points in the youth's history. It augured well that at the time he appreciated the kindness and wisdom of his father's motives and method of treatment. The result was, that at length, when but twelve years of age, he was apprenticed until his majority, to his brother James, as a printer, who had just returned from England with a press and letters to set up his business in Boston ; and thus Franklin's course and fortunes were in a great measure decided for the remainder of his days.
He soon rendered himself a proficient in the mechanical part of his business, and he also eagerly seized every opportunity it afforded of procuring new books to read, in which amusement and occupation he frequently spent the greater part of the night. It was not long before he began to imitate what he so much admired, and his first attempts were in verse. He wrote ballads and printed them; but notwithstanding their temporary success, his father was able to convince him that his talent and interests were not with poetry. His efforts to acquire a facility in writing prose were better directed, and pursued with greater assiduity, making the Spectator one of his models ; and to the success of these efforts may be attributed his early superiority to his brethren of the press, and his subsequent elevation to stations of great public importance. With a passion for reading and writing, he imbibed the kindred one of disputing. This met with fuel from his familiarity with John Collins, a youth of a similar turn, and he was for a time a very doughty and dogmatic polemic. The perusal of a translation of Xenophon's Memorabilia softened him into a Socratic, and he grew to be dextrous in the sly mode of confuting or confounding an antagonist by a series of questions; in such a course of mental exercises, he became a sceptic with respect to the religious tenets in which he had been educated, and with the zeal of a convert took all opportunities to inculcate his opinions. Still, with great good sense, he at length establishert for himself a rule, never to use the words “ certainly,” “ undoubtedly" or any