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ble Things of Socrates, in which are various exanplcs of the same method. Charned to a degree of enthusiasm with this mode of disputing, I adopted it, and renouncing blunt contradiction, and direct and positive argument, I assumed the character of a humble questioner. The perusal of Shaftsbury and Collins had made me a sceptic; and, being previously so as to many doctrines of Christianity, I found Socrates' niethod to be both the safest for myself, as well as the most embarrassing to those against whom I employed it. It soon afforded me singular pleasure ; I incessantly practised it; and became very adroit in obtaining, even from persons of superior understand. ing, concessions of which they did not foresee the consequence. Thus I involved them in difficulties from which they were unable to extricate themselves, and sometimes obtained victories, which neither my cause nor my arguments merited.
This method I continued to employ for some years ; but I afterwards abandoned it by degrees, retaining only the habit of expressing myself with modest diffidence, and never making use, when I advanced any proposition which might be controverted, of the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others which might give the appearance of being obstinately attached to iny opinion. I rather said, I imagine, I suppose, or it appears to me, that such a thing is so or so, for such and such reasons; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit has, I think, been of considerable advan. tage to me, when I have had occasion to impress my opinion on the minds of others, and persuade them to the adoption of the measures I have suggested. And since the chief ends of conversation are, to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I could wish that intelligent and well-meaning men would no themselves diminish the power they possess of being useful, by a positive and presumptuous manner of expressing themselves, which scarcely ever fails to disgust the hearer, and is only calculated to excite opposition, and defeat every purpose for which the faculty of speech has been bestowed on man. In short, if you wish to inform, a positive and dogmatical manner of advancing your opinion may provoke cone tradiction, and prevent your being heard with aftention. On the other hand, if, with a desire of being informed, and of benefiting by the knowledge of others, you express yourself as being strongly attached to your own opinions, modest and sensible men, who to not love disputation, will leave you in tranquil possession of your errors. By following such a method, you can rarely hope to please your auditors, conciliate their good-will, or work conviction on those whom you may be desirous of gaining over to your views. Pope judiciously observes,
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And in the same poem he afterwards advises us,
To speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence.
He might have added to these lines, one that he has coupled elsewhere, in my opinion, with less propriety. It is thus:
For want of modesty is want of sense.
If you ask why I say with less propriety, I must give you the two lines together:
Immodest words admit of no defence,
Now, want of sense, when a man has the inisfortune to be so circumstanced, is it not a kind of excuse for want of modesty? And would not the verses have been more accurate, if they had been constructed thus:
Immodest words admit but this defence,
But I leave the decision of this to better judges than myself.
In 1720, or 1721, my brother began to print a netv public paper. It was the second that made its ap
pearance in America, and was entitled the “New England Courant." The only one that existed before was the “ Boston News Letter.” Some of his friends, I remember, would have dissuaded hin from this un. dertaking, as a thing that was not likely to succeed ; a single newspaper being, in their opinion, sufficient for all America. At present, however, in 1771, t' ere are no less than tweniy-five. But he carried his son jest into execution, and I was employeu in distributing the copies to his customers, after having assisted in composing and working them off.
Among his friends he had a number of literary characters, who, as an amusement, wrote short essays for the paper, which gave it reputation, and increased the sale. These gentlemen frequently came to our house. I heard the conversation that passed, and the accounts they gave of the favourable reception of their writings with the public. I was tempted to try my hand among them; but, being still a child as it were I was fearful that my brother might be unwilling to print in his paper any performance of which he should know me to be the author. I therefore contrived to disguise my hand, and having written an anonymous piece, I placed it at night under the door of the print. ing-house, where it was found the next morning. My brother communicated it to his friends, when they came as usual to gee him, who read it, commented! upon it within my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure to find that it met with their approbation, and that in their various conjectures they made respecting the author, no one was mentioned who didi not enjoy a high reputation ir, the country for talents and genius. I now supposed myself fortunate in iny: judges, and began to suspect that they were not such oxcellent writers as I had hitherto supposed them. } Be this as it may, encouraged by this little adventure, I wrote and sent to press, in the same way, many other pieces, which were equally approved : keeping the secret till iny slender stock of information and knowledge for such performances was pretty corn. pletely exhausted, when I niade myself known.
My bruther, upon this discovery, began to entertain a litúe more respect for me; but he still regaried line
self as my master, and treated me as an apprentice. He thought himself entitled to the same services from me as from any other person. On the contrary, I conceived that, in many instances, he was too rigorous, and that, on the part of a brother, I had a right to expect greater indulgence. Our disputes were frequently brought before my father; and either my brother was generally in the wrong, or I was the better pleader of the two, for judgment was commonly given in my favour. But my brother was passionate, and often had recourse to blows, a circumstance which I took in very ill part. This severe and tyrannical treatment contributed, I believe, to imprint on my mind that aversion to arbitrary power, which, during my whole life, I have ever preserved. My apprenticeship became insupportable to me, and I continually sighed for an opportunity of shortening it, which at length unexpectedly offered.
An article inserted in our paper, upon some political subject which I have now forgotten, gave offence to the Assembly. My brother was taken into custody, censured, and ordered into confinement for a month, because, I presume, he would not discover the author. d was also taken up, and examined before the council; but, though I gave thein no satisfaction, they contented themselves with reprimanding, and then dismissing me; considering me probably as bound, in quality of apprentice, to keep my master's secrets.
The imprisonment of my brother kindled iny recentment, notwithstanding cur private quarrels. During its continuance, the management of the paper was entrusted to me, and I was bold enough to insert some pasquinades against the governors, which high. ly pleased my brother, while others began to look upon me in an unfavourable point of view, considering me as a young wit, inclined to satire and lam. poon.
My brother's cnlargement was accompanied with an arbitary order from the House of Assembly, “That James Franklin should no longer printhe newspaper entitled the New England Courant.'” In this can. juncture, we held a consultation of our friends at the printing-house, an order to determine what was to be
dnien Some proposed to evade the order, by changing the title of the paper : but my brother forseeing in. conveniences that would result from this step, thought it better that it should in future be printed in the name of Benjamin Franklin; and, to avoid the censure of the Assembly, who might charge hiin with still printing the paper himself, under the name of his apprentice, it was resolved that my old indentures should be given up to me, with a full and entire dis charge written on the back, in order to be produce upon an emergency: but that, to secure to my brother the benefit of my service, I should sign a new contract, which should be kept secret during the remainder of the term. This was a very shallow arrangement. It was, however, carried into immediate execution, and the paper continued, in consequence, to make its appearance for some months in my name. At length a new difference arising between my brother and me, I ventured to take advantage of my liberty, presuniing that he would not dare to produce the new con. tract. It was undoubtedly dishonourable to avail myself of this circumstance, and I reckon this action as one of the first errors of my life; but I was little capable of estimating it at its true value, embittered as my mind had been by the recollection of the blows I had received. Exclusive of his passionate treatment to me, my brother was by no means a man of an ill temper, and perhaps my manners had too much im. pertinence not to afford it a very natural pretext. * When he knew that it was my determination to quit him, he wished to prevent my finding employment elsewhere. He went to all the printing-houses in the town, and prejudiced the masters against me ; who accordingly refused to employ me. The idea then suggested itself to me of going to New-York, the near est town in which there was a printing-office. Farther reflection confirmed me in the design of leaving Boston, where I had already rendered myself an object of suspicion to the governing party. It was probable, from the arbitary proceedings of the Assembly in the affair of my brother, that, by remaining, I should soon have been exposed to difficulties, which I had the greatex reason to apprehend, as, from my indiscreet