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Now want of sense, when a man has the misfortune 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 brut this defence
The want of decency is want of sense. But I leave the decision of this to better judges than myself.
In 1720, or 1721, my brother began to print a new public paper. It was the second that made its appearance in America, and was entitled the “ New England Courant." The one that existed before was the “ Boston News-Letter.” Some of his friends, I remember, would have dissuaded him from this undertaking, 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, there are no less than twenty-five. But he carried his project into execution, and I was employed 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, who gave it a 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 printing-house, where it was found the next morning. My brother communicated it to his friends, when they came as usual to see 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 did not enjoy a high reputation in the country for talents and genius. I now supposed myself fortunate in my judges, and began to suspect that they were not such excellent 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 tili my slender stock of information and knowledge for
such performances was pretty completely exhausted, when I made myself known.
My brother, upon this discovery, began to entertain a little more respect for me ; but he still regarded himself 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 rigor ous, 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, as I presume, he would not discover the author.I was also taken up, and examined before the council; but, though I gave them no satisfaction, they contented themselves with reprimanding, and then dismissed me ; considering me probably as bound, in quality of an apprentice, to keep my master's secrets. * The imprisonment of my brother kindled my resentment, notwithstanding our 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 governor ; which highly 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 lampoon.
My brother's enlargement was accompanied with an arbitrary order from the House of the Assembly, * That James Franklin should no longer print the newspaper entitled the New England Courant.'” In this conjuncture, we held a consultation of our friends at the printing-house, in order to determine what was to be done. Some proposed to evade the order, by changing the title of the paper : but my brother foreseeing inconveniences 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 him 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 upon the back, in order to be produced 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, presuming that he would not dare to produce the new contract. 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 of me, my brother was by no means a man of an ill temper, and perhaps my manners had too much impertinence 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 nearest 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 arbitrary 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 greater reason to apprehend, as from myindiscreet disputes upon the subject of religion, I began to be regarded by pious souls with horror, either as a postate or an atheist. I came therefore to a resolution : but my father, siding with my brother, I presumed that if I attempted to depart openly, measures would be taken to prevent me. My friend Collins undertook to favour my flight. He agreed for my passage with the captain of a New York sloop, to whom he represented me as a young man of his acquaintance, who had an affair with a girl of bad character, whose parents wished to compel me to marry ber, and of consequence I could neither make my appearance, not go off publicly. I sold a part of my books to procure a small sum of money, and went privately on board the sloop. By favour of a good wind, I found myself in three days at New York, nearly three hundred miles from my home, at the age only of seventeen years, without knowing an individual in the place, and with very little money in my pocket.
The inclination I had felt for a sea-faring life was entirely subsided, or I should now have been able to gratify it; but, having another trade, and believing myself to be a tolerable workman, I hesitated not to offer my services to the old Mr. William Bradford, who had been the first printer in Pennsylvania, but had quitted the province on account of a quarrel with George Keith, the governor. He could not give me employment himself, having little to do, and already as many persons as he wanted ; but he told me that his son, printer at Philadelphia, had lately lost his principal workman, Aquila Rose, who was dead, and that if I would go thither, he believed that he would engage me. Philadelphia was a hundred miles farther. I hesitated not to embark in a boat in order to repair, by the shortest cut of the sea, to Amboy, leaving my trunk and effects to come after me by the usual and more tedious conveyance. In crossing the bay we met with a squall, which shattered to pieces our rotten sails, preventing us from entering the Kill, and threw us upon Long Island.
During the squall, a drunken Dutchman, who, like myself, was a passenger in the boat, fell into the sea At the moment that he was sinking, I seized him by the foretop, saved him, and drew him on board. This immersion sobered him a little, so that he fell asleep after having taken from his pocket a volume which he requested me to dry. This volume I found to be my old favourite work, Bunyan's Pilgrim, in Dutch, a beautiful impression on fine paper, with copper-plate engravings; a dress in which I had never seen it in its original language. I have since learned that it has been translated into almost all the languages of Europe, and, next to the Bible, I am persuaded it is one of the books that has had the greatest spread. Honest John is the first, that I know of, who has mixed narrative and dialogue together; a mode of writing very engaging to the reader, who in the most interesting passages, finds himself admitted as it were into the company, and present at the conversation. De Foo has imitated it with snccess in his Robinson Crusoe, his Moll Flanders, and other works ; as also Richardson in his Pamelia, &c . !
In approaching the island, we found that we had made a part of the coast where it was not possible to Jand, on account of the strong breakers produced by the rocky shore. We cast anchor and veered the cable towards the shore. Soine men, who stood upon the brink, halloed to us, while we did the same on our part ; but the wind was so high, and the waves so noisy, that we could neither of us hear each other. There were some canoes upon the bank, and we called out to them, and made signs to prevail on them to come and take us up; but either they did not understand us, or they deemed our request impracticable, and withdrew. Night came on, and nothing remained for us but to wait quietly the subsiding of the wind; till when, we determined, that is, the pilot and I, to sleep if possible. For that purpose we went below the hatches along with the Dutchman, who was drenched with water. The sea broke over the boat, and reached us in our retreat, so that we were presently as completely drenched as he.
We had very little repose during the whole night ; but the wind abating the next day, we succeeded in reaching Amboy before it was dark, after having passed thirty hours without provisions, and with no other drink than a bottle of bad rum, the water upon which we rowed being salt. In the evening I went to bed with a very violent fever. I had somewhere read that cold water, drank plentifully, was a remedy in such cases. I followed the prescription, was in a profuse sweat for the greater part of the night, and the fever left me. The next day I crossed the river in a ferryboat, and continued my journey on foot. I had fifty miles to walk, in order to reach Burlington, where I was told I should find passage-boats that would convey me to Philadelphia. It rained hard the whole day, so that I was wet to the skin. Finding myself fatigued about noon, I stopped at a paltry inn, where I passed the rest of the day and the whole night, beginning to regret that I had quitted my home. I made besides so wretched a figure, that I was suspected to be some runaway servant. This I discovered by the questions that were asked me ; and I felt that I was every moment in danger of being taken up as such. The next day, however, I continued my journey, and arrived in the evening at an inn, eight or ten miles from Burlington, that was kept by one Dr. Brown.
This man entered into conversation with me while I took some refreshment, and perceiving that I had read a little, he expressed towards me considerable interest and friendship. Our acquaintance continued during