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On the Criminal Laws, and the Practice of
MY DEAR SON,
I HAVE amused myself with collecting sordo linie anecdotes of my family. You may remember the inquiries I made, when you were with me i Eng. land, among such of my relations as were then liv. ing; and the journey 1 undertook for that purpose. To be acquainted with the particulars of my parent: age and life, many of which are unknown to you, I flatter myself will afford the same pleasure to you as to me. I shall relate them upon påper: it will to an agreeable employment of a week's uninterrupted leisure, which I promise myself during my piesent retirement in the country. There are also other mo. tives which induce me to the undertaking. From the hosom of poverty and obscurity, in which I drew my first breath, and spent my earliest years, I have raised myself 19 a state of opulence, and to some degree of celebrity in the world. A constant good fortune has attended me through every period of life to my present advanced age; and my descendants niay be de. sirous of learning what were the means of which I made use, and which, thanks to the assisting hand of Providence, have proved so eminently successful.. They may also, should they ever be placed in a s. milar situation, derive some advartage from may narrative.
When I reflect, as I frequently do, upon the felicity I hare enjoyed, I sometimes say to myself, that were the offer made true I would engage to run again, from
beginning to end, the same career of life. Al 1 would ask, should be the privilege of an author, to correct, in a second edition, certain errors of the first. I could wish, likewise, if it were in my power, to change some trivial incidents and events for others more favourable. Were this, however, denied me, still would I not decline the offer. But since a re. petition of life cannot take place, there is nothing which, in my opinion, so acariy resembles it, as 18 Gall to mind all its circumstances, and, to rende: their remembrance more durable, commit them to writing. By thus emp'oying inyself, I shall yield to the inclination, so natural in old men, to ialk of themselves and their exploits, and may freely foilow my bom..., without being tiresome to those who, from respect to my age, might think themselves obliged to listen to me; as they will be at liberty to read mc or not as they please. In fine-and I may as well avow it, since nobody would believe me were I to deny itI shall, perhaps, by this employinent, gratify my vani9. Scarcely, indeed, have I ever heard or read the introductory plurase, “ I may say without vanity," hut some striking and characteristic instance of vanity has immediately followed. The generality of men l’ate vanity in others, however strongly they inay be tinctured with it themselves : for myself, I pay obei. sance to it whereve: I meet with it, persuaded that it is advantagevus, as well to the individual whom it governs, as to those who are within the sphere of its influence. Of consequence, it would, in inany cases, not be wholly absurd, that a man should count his vanity among the other sweets of life, and give thanks to Providence for the blessing.
And here let me with all humility acknowledge that to Divine Providence I am indebted for the felicity I leave hitherto enjoyed. It is that power alone which has furnished me with the means I have employed, and that has crowned them with success. My fa:th, in this respect, leads me to lopo, though I cannot count upon it, that the Divine goodness will stil be exercised towards ino, either by prolonging the dura. sian cf my happiness to the close of life, or by giving ne fortitude to support any melancholy reverse, 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 bad 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 sumames, when they took the appellation of Franklin, which had formerly been the name of a particular order of individuals.*
This petty estate would not have sufficed for their subsistence, had they not added the trade of black
* As a proof that Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in England, see Judge Fortesque, De laudibus legum Angliæ, written about the year 1412, in which is the following passage, to show that good juries might easily be formed in any part of Eng and :
a 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 auncupatnr, magnis ditatus possessionibus, nec non libere tenentes et alii valecti plurimi, suis patrimoniis sufficientes, ad faciendum juratam, 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 many yeomen, able for their livelihood to make a jury io form aforementioned."
Old Translation. Chaucer tan, calls his country-gentleman a franklin ; and, after describing his good housekeeping, thus characterizes him :
This worthy franklin bore a purse of silk