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my father in his occupation, which was that of soap boilei\and tallow-chandler; a business to which he had served no apprenticeship, but which he embraced on his arrival in New-England, because he found his own, that of a dyer, in too little request to enable him to maintain his family. I was accordingly employed in cutting the wicks, filling the moulds, taking care of the shop, carrying messages, &c.
This business displeased me, and I felt a strong inclination for a sea life ; but my father set his face agamst it. The vicinity of the water, however, gave me frequent opportunities of venturing myself both upon and within it, and I soon acquired the art of swimming and of managing a boat.—When embarked with other children, the helm was commonly deputed to me, particularly on difficult occasions ; and, in every other project, I was almost always the leader of the troop, whom I sometimes involved in embarrassments. I shall give an instance of this whioh demonstrates an earlv disposition of mind for public enterprizes, though the one in question was not conducted by justice.
The miil-pond was terminated on one side by a marsh. upon the borders of which we were accustomed fo take our stand, at high water to angle for small fish. By dint of walking, we had converted the place into a perfect quagmire. My proposal was to erect a wharf that should afford us firm footing ; and I pointed out to my companions a large h.'ap of stones, intended for the building a new house near the marsh, and which were well adapted for our purpose. Accordingly, when the workmen retired ii the evening. I assembled a number of my pia\ fallows, antl by laboring 'diligently, like ants, sometimes four of us uniting our strength to carry a single stone, we removed them all, and constructed our little quay. The workmen were surprised the next morning at not finding their stones, which had been conveyed to our wharf. Enquiries were made respecting the authors of this conveyance; we were discovered; complaints were exhibited against us ; many of us underwent correction on the part of our parents ; and though I strenuously defended the utility of the work, my father at length convinced me, that nothing which was not strictly honest could be useful.
It will not, perhaps, be uninteresting to you to know what sort of a man my father was. He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle size, but well made and strong, and extremely active in whatever he undertook. He designed with a degree of neatness, and knew alitde of music. His voice was sonorous and agreeable; so that when he sung a psalm or hymn with accompaniment of his violin, as was his frequent practice in an evening when the labors of the day were fmished, it was truly delightful to her him. He was versed also in mechanics, and could upon occasion, use the tools of a variety of trades. But his greatest excellence was a sound understanding and solid judgment in matters of prudence, both in public and private life. In the former indeed he never engaged, because his numerous family and the mediocrity of his fortune, kept him unremittingly employed in the duties of his profession. But I very well remember that the leading men of the place used frequently to come and ask his advice respecting affairs of the town, rr of the church to which he belonged, and that they paid much deference to his opinion. Individuals were also in the habit of consulting him in their private affairs, and he was often chosen arbiter between contending parties.
He was fond of having at his table, as ofien i>3 possible, some friends or well informed neighbors capable of rational conversation, and he was always careful to introduce useful or ingenious topics of discourse, which might tend to form the minds of his children. By this means he early attracted our attention to what was just, prudent, and beneficial m the conduct of life. He never talked of the meats which appeared upon the table, never discussed whether they were well or ill dressed, of a good or a bad flavour, high-seasoned or otherwise, preferable or inferior to this or that dish of a similar kind. Thus accustomed, from my infancy, to the utmost inattention as to these objects, I have always been perfectly regardless of what kind of food was before me ; and I pay so little attention to it even now, that it would be a hard matter for me to recollect, a few hours after I had dined, of what my dinner had consisted. When travelling I have particularly experienced the advantage of this habit; for it has often happened to me to be in company with persons, who, having a more delicate, because a more exercised taste, have suffered in many cases consid-. erable inconvenience; while as to myself I have had nothing to desire.
My mother was likewise possessed of an excellent constitution. She suckled all her ten children, and I never heard either her or my lather complain of any other disorder than that of which they died: my father at the age of eighty-seven, and my mother at eighty-five. They are buried together at Boston, where a few years ago, I placed a marble over their grave, with this inscription:
"Here lie "Josias Franklin and Abiah his wife: They "lived together with reciprocal affection for fifty "nine years ; and without private fortune, without "lucrative employment, by assiduous labor and "honest industry, decently supported a numerous. "family, and educated, with success, thirteen chilu dren, and seven grand.children. Letthisexam"pie, reader, encourage thee diligently to dis"charge the duties of thy calling, and to rely on "the support of divine providence.
"He was pious and prudent,
"She discreet and virtuous. "Their youngest son, from a sentiment of filial "duty, consecrates this stone
"To their memory." I perceive by my rambling digressions, that I am growing old. But we do not dress for a private company as for a formal ball. This deserves perhaps the name of negligence.
To return. I thus continued employed in my father's trade for the space of two years ; that is to say, till I arrived at twelve years of age. About this time my brother John, who had served his appren^ ticeship in London, having quitted my father, and being married and settled in business on his own account at Rhode Island, I was destined, to all appearance, to supply his place, and be a candle-maker all mv life ; but my dislike of this occupation continuing, my father was apprehensive, that, if a more agreeable one were not offered me, I might play the truant and go to sea; as, to his extreme mortification, my brother Josias had done. He therefore took me sometimes to see masons, coopers, braziers, joiners, and other mechanics, employed at their work j in order to discover the bent of my inclination, and fix it if he could upon some occupation, that might retain me on shore. I have since in consequence of these visits, derived no Email plea* sure from seeing skilful workmen handle their tools ;. and it has proved of considerable benefit, to have acquired thereby suffi. ient knowledge to be able to make little things for myself, when I have had no mechanic at hand, and to construct small machines for my experiments, while the idea I have conceived has been fresh and strongly impressed in my imagination.
My father at length decided that I should be a cutler, and I was placed for some days upon trial with. my cousin Samuel, son of my uncle Benjamin, who had learned this trade in London, and had established himself at Boston. But the premium he required for my apprenticeship displeasing my father, I was recalled home.
From my earliest years I had been passionately fond of reading, and I laid out in books all the little money I could procure. I was particularly pleased, with accounts of voyages. My first acquisition 'was Bunyan's collection in small separate volumes. These I afterwards sold in order to buy an historical collection by R. Burton, which consisted of small cheap volumes, amounting in all to about forty or fifty. My father's little library was principally made up of books of practical and polemical theo^ logy. I read the greatest part of them. I have since often regretted, that at a time when I had so great a thirst for knowledge, more eligible books had not fallen into my hands, as it was then a point decided that I should not be educated for the church. There was also among my father's books Plutarch's Lives, in which I read continually, and I still regarded as advantageously emplo\ed the time I devoted to them. I found besides a work of De Foe's, entitled, an essay on Projects, from which, perhaps, I derived impressions that have since influenced lome of the principal events of my life.