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LIFE OF FRANKLIN,
MY DEAR Sor,
I HAVE amused myself with collecting some little anecdotes of my family. You may remember the inquiries I made, when you were with me in England, among such of my relations as were then living; and the journey I undertook for Jhat purpose. To be acquainted with the particulars of my parentage, and life, many of which are paikpown to you, I fratter myself will afford the same pleasure to you as to ma [ shall relate them upon paper; it will be an agreeable employment of a week's uninterrupted leisure, which I promise myself during my present retirement in the country. There are also other motives which induce me to the undertaking. From the bason of poverty and obscurity, in whiéh.1:dzew' my firsthreath, and spent my earliest years, I have raised myself to 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 may be desirous 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 similar situation, derive some advantage from my narrative.
When I reflect, as I frequently do, upon the felicity I have enjoyed, I sometimes say to myself, that were the offer made me, I would engage to run again from beginning to end, the same career of life. All I 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 repetition of life cannot
not as they pleashidy would be
take place, there is nothing which, in my opinion, so nearly resembles it, as to call to mind all its circumstances, and, to render their remembrance more durable, commit them to writing. By thus employing myself, I shall yield to the inclination, so natural in old men, to talk of themselves and their exploits, and may freely follow my bent, 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 me or not as they please. In fine,-and I may as well avow it, since nobody would believe me were I to deny it-I shall, perhaps, by this employment, gratify my vanity. Scarcely, indeed have I ever heard or read the introductory phrase "I may say without vanity,” but some striking and characteristic instance of vanity has immediately followed. The generality of men hate vanity in others, however strongly they may be tinctured with it themselves : for myself, I pay obeisance to it wherever I meet with it, persuaded that it is advantageous, as well to the individual whom it governs, as to those who are within the sphere of its influence. Of consequence, it would in, many cases, tot be Whoily absurd, that a viañ . sbould count his vanity among the other sweets of life, and give thanks to. Providence for the blessing. "
And here let me with all humilită acknowledge, that to Divine Providence I am indebted for the felicity I have hitherto enjoyed. It is that power alone which has furnished me with the nteaoI have employed, and that has crowned them with sucoess.: My faith in this respect, leads nte to hope, though I cannot count upon it that the Divine goodness will still be exercised towards me, either by prolonging the duration of my happiness to the close of life, or by giving me 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 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 had 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 surnames, 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 blacksmith, which was perpetuated in the family down to my uncle's time, the eldest son having been uniformly brought up to this employment: a custom which both he and my father observed with respect to their eldest sons.
In the researches I made at Eaton, I found no account of their births, marriages, and deaths, earlier than the year 1555, the parish register not extending farther back than that period. This register informed me that I was the youngest son of the youngest branch of the family, counting five generations. My grandfather, Thomas, was born in 1598, lived at Eaton till he was too old to continue his trade, when he retired to Banbury, in Oxfordshire, where his son John, who was a dyer, resided, and with whom my father was apprenticed. He died, and was buried there : we saw
* As a proof that Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in Englansi, see Judge Fortesque, De laridibus legum Anglia, written about the year 1412, in which is the following passage, to show that good' juries might easily be formed in any part of England.
. « Regio etiam illa ita respersão referenäue est possessoribus terrarum et agrorum, quod in ea, villula tam parva reperiri non poterit, in qua non est est miles, armi. ger, vel pater-familias duatis ibidem fringlin vulgariter nuncupatur, magnisdimtus 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 an householder as is there commonly calla ed a franklin enriched with great possessions ; and also other freeholders and many yeomen, able for their livelihoods to make a jury in form aforementioned.”
roid Translatian. Chaucer too calls his country gentleman a franklin , and after describing his good housekeeping, thus char. acterises him :
This worthy franklin bore a purse of silk
his fathas had learned are not lost durih find a more
his monument in 1758. His eldest son lived in the family house at Eaton, which he bequeathed, with the land belonging to it, to his only daughter; who, in concert with her husband, Mr. Fisher of Wellingborough, afterwards sold it to Mr. Ested, the present proprietor.
My grandfather had four surviving sons, Thomas, John, Benjamin, and Josias. I shall give you such particulars of them as my memory will furnish, not having my papers here, in which you will find a more mjaute account, if they are not lost during my absence.
Thomas had learned the trade of a blacksmith under his father; but, possessing a'good natural understanding, he improved it by study, at the solicitation of a gentleman of the name of Palmer, who was at that time the principal inhabitant of the village, and who encouraged, in like manner, all my uncles to cultivate their minds. Thomas thus rendered himself competent to the functions of a country attorney ; soon became an essential personage in the affairs of the village ; and was one of the chief.ngwess of every public enterprfse, as well relative to the cognity as the town of Natla tnpton. A variety of remarkable incidents were told us of him at Eaton. After enjoying the esteem and patronage of Lord Halifux, he died January 6, 1702, pretisaly four years before I was born. The recital that was made up of his life and character, by some aged persons of the village, struck you, I remember, as extraordinary, from it.anqogy to what you knew of.yoed.. " Hradlie ied," said you, “just four years later one Inigla hay& supposed a transmigration of souls."
John, to the best of my belief, was brought up to the trade of a wool-dyer.
Benjamin served his apprenticeship in London to a silk-dyer. He was an industrious man; I remember him well; for, while I was a child, he joined my father at Boston, and lived for some years in the house with us. A particular affection had always subsisted between my father and him ; and I was his godson. He arrived to a great age. He left behind him two quarto volumes of poems in manuscript, consisting of little fugitive pieces addressed to his friends. He had invented a short hand, which he taught me, but, hav. ing never made use of it, I have now forgotten it. He was a man of piety, and a constant attendant on the best preachers, whose sermons he took a pleasure in writing down according to the expeditory method he had devised. Many volumes were thus collected by him. He was also extremely fond of politics ; too much so, perhaps, for his situation. I lately found in London a collection which he had made of all the principal pamphlets relative to public affairs, from the year 1641 to 1717. Many volumes are wanting, as appears by the series of numbers; but there still reinain eight in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and octavo. The collection had fallen into the hands of a second-hand bookseller, who, knowing me by having sold me some books, brought it to me. My uncle, it seems, had left it behind him on his departure for America, about fifty years ago. I found various notes of his writing in the margin. His grandson, Samuel, is now living at Boston.
Our humble family had early embraced the Reformation. They remained faithfully attached during the reign of Queen Mary, when they were in danger of being molested on account of their zeal against Popery. They had an English Bible, and to conceal it the more securely, they conceived the project of fastening it open, with packthreads across the leaves, on the inside of the 'id of the close-stool. When my great-grandfather yvighed to read to his family he reversed the lid of the close-s.col upon his knees, and passed the leaves froin one side tờ the other, which were held down on cach by the packthread. One of the children was statiorted at the doot, to give notice if he saw the proctor (an oficer of the shiritual court) make his appearance; in that case, the lid was restored to its place, witil the Bible corroealed under it as before. I had this axçcctè from my uzrcle Benjamin.
The whole family preserved its attachment to the Church of England, till towards the close of the reign of Charles II. when certain ministers, who had been rejected as nonconformists, having held conventicles in Northamptonshire, they were joined by Benjamin and Josias, who adhered to them ever after. The rest of the family continued in the episcopal church.
My father, Josias, married early in life. He went with his wife and three children, to New England, about the year 1682. Conventicles being at that time prohibited by Jaw, and frequently disturbed, some considerable persons of his acquaintance determined to go to America, where they hoped to enjoy the free exercise of their religion, and my father was prevailed on to accompany them.
My father had also, by the same wife, four children born in America, and ten others by a second wife, making in all seventeen. I remember to have seen thirteen seated together at his table, who all arrived