« ZurückWeiter »
of Franklin's characteristic recipes for conciliating an honest and powerful opponent. The gentleman in question, like the aspiring printer, collected books; and the latter hearing that he possessed a scarce and curious volume, politely requested the loan of it for a few days. It was sent immediately, and Franklin returned it in a week, with another note, expressing his obligation to the owner; who, when they resumed their respective posts in the assembly, noticed Mr. Franklin very politely, a thing he had never done before, ever afterwards acting as his friend. “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged,” is the sentiment to which allusion is made.
Bradford, Franklin's competitor in the publication of a newspaper, being deprived of his office of deputy postmaster at Philadelphia in 1737, Colonel Spottiswood, the postmaster general, gave the appointment to the latter, who readily availed himself of its advantages for facilitating the circulation of his newspaper, and improving his connexions throughout the province.
Shortly afterwards, his easy circumstances, combined with his influence in the Concentric Clubs which he had contrived to originate as the offspring of the Junto, induced him to propose certain public improvements, the consequence of which will be felt in Philadelphia to remote ages. The most important of his early measures of this kind, was the establishment of a fire company. His plans were directed rather to the prevention of awful calamity-than to any scheme of insurance against actual loss. By such means as he suggested, Philadelphia became remarkable for its general security from fire.
In 1739, George Whitfield returned to Georgia from England, having previously made a considerable impression in the Transatlantic continent in favour of his orphan-house in that state. Objections existed in America to his pecaliar strain of preaching, as well as in his native country. Franklin, however, was not to be deterred by the example of the great or the interested ; and though never himself a powerful speaker, he seems throughout life to have duly appreciated good oratory. He decidedly ranks Whitfield among the most efficient public speakers with whom he ever came in contact; he regularly attended him to the fields, to which the preacher was driven, and amused himself with observing his progressive influence, and the number of his hearers. It was a matter of speculation to our philosopher, he tells us, to note the extraordinary power he had on nis audience, and how much they admired
and respected him notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them they were naturally "half beasts and half devils.” Franklin, however, testifies that the revolution effected on the public mind at Philadelphia was as unquestionable as it was creditable to the individual who was the cause of the reformation. Sometimes Whitfield gathered a vast congregation in the streets ; and our philosopher on one of these occasions was at the pains of ascertaining the possible radius of a semicircle throughout which he could be distinctly heard. Accordingly he found that the orator's voice would reach the outskirt of an area that might accommodate more than thirty thousand auditors, allowing two square feet for each person. Franklin particularly admired the clearness of his articulation and the energy of his manner; and exhibited in his own conduct a fair instance of Whitfield's success as an advocate for works of charity. He had advised the orator to build his orphan-house at Philadelphia rather than in the state of Georgia, as it would be much easier to transfer the children to the former place, than materials and workmen to the latter ; but Whitfield rejected the counsel, and therefore the other refused to contribute to the scheme. In this temper of refusal, Franklin attended one of the preacher's charity sermons for the funds of the orphan-house; and having in his pocket a handful of copper money, three or four dollars in silver, and five pistoles in gold, he resolved to give him no part whatever of them. In the progress of the sermon, Whitfield so far shook the philosopher's resolution, that he determined to let him have the copper, at another successful stroke of the oratory, the silver next; and so admirable was the final appeal, that “I emptied,” says the giver, “my pocket wholly into the collector's dish, gold and ali.”.
Franklin became an intimate private acquaintance of Whitfield, and took an active part in procuring a large covered building for the accommodation of his congregations. On a subsequent occasion he offered to accommodate the reverend orator at his house during his stay at Philadelphia. “If you can make shift with my scanty accommodations," said the typographer, “ you will be most heartily welcome.” Whitfield replied, that if Franklin made that kind offer for Christ's sake, he should not miss of a reward. To this the other returned, “ Don't let me be mistaken; it was not for Christ's sake, but for your sake.” The philosopher declares nobly that, while some of Whitfield's enemies affected to suppose him inflnenced by sinister views in his public collections, he who knew him intimately never suspected any such thing, but believed him to be in all his conduct decidedly an honest and sincere man, Franklin, however, blames him for committing himself to paper so often, and concludes, as many others will do, that he would have left a much more numerous and respectable body of admirers had he never written anything for the press. The following also occurs in the autobiography: “By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily between sermons newly composed, and those which he had often preached in the course of his travels. His delivery of the latter was so improved by frequent repetition, that every accent, every emphasis, every modulation of voice, was so perfectly well turned and well placed, that, without being interested in the subject, one could not help being pleased with the discourse ; a pleasure of much the same kind with that received from an excellent piece of music.” “He used sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard. Ours was a mere civil friendship, sincere on both sides, and lasted to his death."
Franklin acted in every thing upon system, as far as his knowledge and opportunities permitted. His parternership business at Charlestown having fully arswered his expectations, he carried out the principle on a wider scale in proportion as he found neighbouring colonies in want of printers. The plan he adopted was to select one of the most competent and discreet of his workmen, and enter into explicit articles of partnership with him for six years, Franklin furnishing all the capital for materials, &c., in the first instance, and his partner devoting himself to procure and conduct the business. He speaks with great satisfaction of the general issue of these engagements : they remunerated him for his money, and established several respectable families in the different colonies, most of his partners being able to purchase his interest at the end of the term, and the connexion ending in all cases with personal good will. In his account of these speculations, he urges the importance of very specific articles being in all cases drawn up between the parties.
His situation in the capital of Pensylvania gave Franklin full opportu. nity for the display of his powers as a rising tradesman, politician, and philosopher :-points of his character, indeed, essentially depending on each other. He was too prudent not to secure first those pecuniary advantages and that opulent ease, by which alone he could have become the important public man we find him. His newspaper, about the year 1740, was almost the only one in great demand in the central states of America, and became very lucrative; he therefore found the pleasing
truth of one of his proverbial sayings, that “after getting the first hundred pounds, it is much easier to get the second and realizo at least three-fourths of another. Learning is to the studious, riches to the careful, as well as favour to the bold, and heaven to the virtuous.”
In 1742, Franklin launched his first practical invention in philosophy, by presenting a friend, Mr. Robert Green, of Philadelphia, with a model of an open stove for the better warming of rooms and economy of fire wood, pit coal being unknown at this period in that city as an article of fuel. The provincial governor of the day, Mr. Thomas, offered our philosopher a patent for his invention which he respectfully declined. It rewarded him sufficiently, he said, that some of his particular friends should find it useful in the way of trade; while, with regard to the public, he argued that our personal advantages from the inventions of others should induce us to communicate to the world, as freely as possible, any discoveries we may be enabı,d to make. Although, therefore, in England his invention was not only pirated, but a patent granted to an ironmonger for the sale of it, with some unimproving alteration, Franklin allowed the trick to succeed, hating disputes, he says, and determined not to profit by patents. On this same principle, he afterwards suffered several patents to be worked from his inventions without any compensation.
No philosopher of ancient or modern times ever more fully perceived than Franklin, the natural union between knowledge and virtue; accordingly he is at length to be found occupied with various projects for enlightening the public mind. His first effort of this kind was the formation of an academy in 1743; but the only person in Philadelphia whom he considered competent for a principal, declining to act, the undertaking was suspended for a short period. But in the ensuing year, another project of his, the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, an institution congenial with his intellectual habits, was more fortunate, and soon ranked amongst its members all the leading persons of the province. This society still exists as a memorial of Franklin's zeal for mental advancement, ranking now among its members some of the most distinguished men of letters and science in America and Europe.
MILITARY ARDOUR. In the year, 1744, the same in which he projected the Philosophical Society, Franklin became the patriotic advocate of the rights and liber
ties of his country. A Spanish privateer (Spain having been several years at war against Great Britain, and being at length joined by France) had descended the bay of Delaware, as high as Newcastle, and Franklin thinking of their defenceless condition, published a pamphlet, entitled “ Plain Truth, or Serious Considerations on the present state of the City of Philadelphia, and provinces of Pensylvania ; by a tradesman of Philadelphia," exposing the dangers, and exhorting his fellow citizens to pronipt and united measures for the public security. The publication was fraught with the characteristic soundness and force of the author's reasoning, producing a remarkable and instantaneous effect; containing, besides, a spirited and powerful eulogium upon that parent country against which afterwards he was called to act so much like an enemy. Indeed the effect of the appeal was prodigious, arousing the capital at once. A public meeting was called in Whitfield's preaching-house ; and Franklin being requested to produce his promised plan, which was, in fact, that of a general volunteer militia, twelve hundred signatures to it were obtained on the occasion. In the neighbourhood the flame spread with equal ardour. Copies of the address being promptly circulated, ten thousand men were soon enrolled, who furnished themselves with arms, elected officers and formed themselves into a united body, without any very important aid from the gove ernment. They met and mustered with great punctuality every week, to learn the manual exercise ; the female part of the community inflaming their gallantry, by providing and presenting them with colours, which were covered with devices and appropriate mottoes supplied by Franklin, The Philadelphia association requested him to become their colonel, which he modestly declined in favour of a Mr. Lawrence, who was accordingly appointed.
Franklin next contended, that a battery below the town, was essential to its safety, and proposed to raise a sufficient sum by lottery, for its erection and support. This scheme also proved popular ; the shares were taken off immediately, the projector and soul of all these patriotic measures being dispatched with some other citizens to New York, to solicit the loan of cannon until their own should come from England. At New York, they at first found the governor, Sir William Clinton, very unwilling to comply with their request ; but after dinner, Franklin watching the movements of the bottle, there being a great drinking of Madeira wine, “as the custom of that place then was,” began to press his suite accordingly. The governor was softening by degrees, so that