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it and I pres
then proposed to my brother that if he would give me, weekly, half the money he paid for my board, I would board myself. He instantly agreed to it and I ently found that I could save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund for buying books. But I had another advantage in it. My brother and the rest going from the printing-house to their meals, I remained there alone, and dispatching presently my light repast, which often was no more than a biscuit or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins or a tart from the pastry-cook's, and a glass of water, had the rest of the time till their return for study, in which I made the greater progress, from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking.
And now it was that, being on some occasion made ashamed of my ignorance in figures, which I had twice failed in learning when at school, I took Cocker's book of Arithmetic, and went through the whole by myself with great ease.
I also read Seller's and Shermy's books of Navigation, and became acquainted with the little geometry they contain ; but never proceeded far in that science. And I read about this time Locke On Human Understanding, and the Art of Thinking, by Messrs. du Port Royal."
While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an English Grammar (I think it was Greenwood's), at the end of which there were two little sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the latter finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic
Early in the seventeenth century a company of learned and religious men were associated at the abbey of Port Royal near Versailles in France. Here they studied and worshipped and gave out to the world many valuable books.
method; and soon after I procured Xenophon’s Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there are many instances of the same method. I was charmed with it, adopted it, dropped my abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer and doubter. And being then, from reading Shaftesbury and Collins, become a real doubter in many points of our religious doctrine, I found this method safest for myself and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I took a delight in it, practiced it continually, and grew very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither myself nor my cause always deserved. I continued this method some few
but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced anything that may possibly be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I conceive or apprehend a thing to be so
appears to me, or I should think it so or so, for such and such reasons; or I imagine it to be 80; or it is so if I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engaged in promoting; and as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to dis
gust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat every one of those purposes for which speech was given to us, to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure. For if you would inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention. If wish information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express your. self as firmly fixed in your present opinions, modest, sensible men who do not love disputation will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your
And by such a manner you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in pleasing your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you desire./Pops says, judiciously :
“Men should be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown propos'd as things forgot; " farther recommending to us
"To speak, tho' with seeming diffidence.' And he might have coupled with this line that which he has coupled with another, I think less properly,
“For want of modesty is want of sense." If you ask, Why less properly? I must repeat the lines,
“Immodest words admit of no defense,
For want of modesty is want of sense. Now, is not want of sense (where a man is so unfortunate as to want it) some apology for his want of modesty ? and would not the lines stand more justly thus ?
“ Immodest words admit but this defense,
That want of modesty is want of sense. This, however, I should submit to better judgments.
My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a
newspaper. It was the second that appeared in Amer. ica, and was called the New England Courant. The only one before it was the Boston News-Letter. I remember his being dissuaded by some of his friends from the undertaking, as not likely to succeed, one newspaper being, in their judgment, enough for Amer. ica. At this time (1771) there are not less than five and-twenty. He went on, however, with the undertaking, and after having worked in composing the types and printing off the sheets, I was employed to carry the papers through the streets to the customers.
He had some ingenious men among his friends, who amused themselves by writing little pieces for this paper, which gained it credit and made it more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their conversations, and their accounts of the approbation their papers were received with, I was excited to try my hand among them; but being still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printing anything of mine in his paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my hand, and writing an anonymous paper, I put it in at night under the door of the printing-house. It was found in the morning, and communicated to his writing friends when they called in as usual. They read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that in their different guesses at the author, none were named but men of some character among us for learning and ingenuity. I suppose now that I was rather lucky in my judges,
Franklin's memory was a little at fault here. The Courant was the third newspaper established in New England, the fourth in Amer. lca. The Boston Gazette and the American Weekly Mercury of Phila delphia were published in 1719, the Courant in 1721. The Boston News-Letter dated from 1704.
and that perhaps they were not really so very good ones as I then esteemed them.
Encouraged, however, by this, I wrote and conveyed in the same way to the press several more papers which were equally approved; and I kept my secret till my small fund of sense for such performances was pretty well exhausted, and then I discovered it, when I began to be considered a little more by my brother's acquaintance, and in a manner that did not quite please him, as he thought, probably with reason, that it tended to make me too vain. And, perhaps, this might be one occasion of the differences that we began to have about this time. Though a brother, he considered himself as my master, and me as his appren. tice, and, accordingly, expected the same services from me as he would from another, while I thought he demeaned me too much in some he required of me, who from a brother expected more indulgence. Our disputes were often brought before our father, and I fancy I was either generally in the right, or else a better pleader, because the judgment was generally in my favor. But my brother was passionate, and had often beaten me, which I took extremely amiss; and, thinking my apprenticeship very tedious, I was continually wishing for some opportunity of shortening it, which at length offered in a manner unexpected.1
One of the pieces in our newspaper on some political point, which I have now forgotten, gave offence to the Assembly. He was taken up, censured, and imprisoned for a month, by the speaker's warrant, I suppose, because he would not discover his author. I too
1 I fancy his harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of impressing me with that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my whole life. B. F.