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me there were eight of them assembled at a tavern just by;
were constantly Quakers, gave me frequent opportunities of seeing the embarrassment given them by their principle against war, whenever application was made to them, by order of the crown, to grant aids for military purposes. They were unwilling to offend government, on the one hand, by a direct refusal; and their friends, the body of the Quakers, on the other, by a compliance contrary to their principles; using a variety of evasions to avoid complying, and modes of disguising the compliance when it became unavoidable. The common mode at last was, to grant money under the phrase of its being “for the king's use,” and never to inquire how it was applied. But, if the demand was not directly from the crown, that phrase was found not so proper, and some other was to be invented. Thus, when powder was wanting (I think it was for the garrison at Louisburg), and the government of New England solicited a grant of some from Pennsylvania, which was much urged on the House by Governor Thomas, they would not grant money to buy powder, because that was an ingredient of war; but they voted an aid to New England of three thousand pounds, to be put into the hands of the governor, and appropriated it for the purchase of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain. Some of the Council, desirous of giving the House still further embarrassment, advised the governor not to accept provision, as not being the thing he had demanded; but he replied, “I shall take the money, for I understand very well their meaning; other grain is gunpowder;” which he accordingly bought, and they never objected to it. It was in allusion to this fact that, when in our fire-company we feared the success of our proposal in favor of the lottery, and I had said to a friend of mine, one of our members, “If we fail, let us move the purchase of a fire-engine with the money; the Quakers can have no objection to that ; and then, if you nominate me and I you as a committee for that purpose, we will buy a great gun, which is certainly a fire-engine;” “I see,” said he, “you have improved by being so long in the Assembly; your equivocal project would be just a match for their wheat or other grain.” Those embarrassments that the Quakers suffered, from having established and published it as one of their principles that no kind of war was lawful, and which, being once published, they could not afterwards, however they might change their minds, easily get rid of, reminds me of what I think a more prudent conduct in another sect among us, – that of the Dunkers. I was acquainted with one of its founders, Michael Weffare, soon after it appeared. He complained to me that they were grievously calumniated by the zealots of other persuasions, and charged with abominable principles and practices, to which they were utter strangers. I told him this had always been the case with new sects, and that, to put a stop to such abuse, I imagined it might be well to publish the articles of their belief, and the rules of their discipline. He said that it had been proposed among them, but not agreed to, for this reason: “When we were first drawn together as a society,” said he, “it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which were esteemed truths, were errors; and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. From time to time, He has been pleased to afford us further light, and our princiciples have been improving, and our errors diminishing. Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge ; and we fear that, if we should once print our confession of faith, we should feel ourselves as if bound and confined by it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive further improvement; and our successors still more so, as conceiving what their elders and founders had done to be something sacred, never to be departed from.” This modesty in a sect is perhaps a singular instance in the history of mankind, every other sect supposing itself in possession of all truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong; like a man travelling in foggy weather; — those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side; but near him all appear clear, though in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them. To avoid this kind of embarrassment, the Quakers have of late years been gradually declining the public service in the Assembly and in the magistracy, choosing rather to quit their power than their principles. In order of time, I should have mentioned before that, having, in 1742, invented an open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the same time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in entering, I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early friends, who, having an iron furnace, found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in demand. To promote that demand, I wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled, “An Account of the New-invented Pennsylvanian Fireplaces; wherein their Construction and Manner of Operation are particularly explained; their Advantages above every other Method of Warming Rooms demonstrated ; and all Objections that have been raised against the Use of them answered and obviated,” &c. This pamphlet had a good effect. Governor Thomas was so pleased with the construction of this stove, as described in it, that he offered to give me a patent for the sole vending of them for a term of years; but I declined it from a principle which has ever weighed with me on such occasions, namely, That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.
An ironmonger in London, however, assuming a good deal of my pamphlet and working it up into his own, and making some small changes in the machine, which rather hurt its operation, got a patent for it there, and made, as I was told, a little fortune by it. And this is not the only instance of patents taken out of my inventions by others, – though not always with the same success, – which I never contested, as having no desire of profiting by patents myself, and hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces in very many houses, both here in Pennsylvania and the neighboring states, has been, and is, a great saving of wood to the inhabitants.
Moves in the Cause of Education — An Academy — A Trustee — New Partnership — Electrical Experiments — Public Employments — A Member of the Assembly — Commissioner to treat with Indians — The Pennsylvania Hospital — Advice in procuring Subscriptions—Street Paving, Cleaning and Lighting — Project for Cleaning Streets in London — Postmaster-general of America — Honorary Degrees.
PEACE being concluded, and the association business therefore at an end, I turned my thoughts again to the affair of establishing an academy. The first step I took was to associate in the design a number of active friends, of whom the Junto furnished a good part; the next was to write and publish a pamphlet, entitled Proposals relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania. This I distributed among the principal inhabitants gratis; and as soon as I could suppose their minds a little prepared by the perusal of it, I set on foot a subscription for opening and supporting an academy. It was to be paid in quotas yearly for five years; by so dividing it, I judged the subscription might be larger; and I believe it was so, amounting to no less, if I remember right, than five thousand pounds.” In the introduction to these proposals, I stated their publication not as an act of mine, but of some public-spirited gentlemen ; avoiding as much as I could, according to my usual rule, the presenting myself to the public as the author of any scheme for their benefit. The subscribers, to carry the project into immediate execution, chose out of their number twenty-four trustees, and appointed Mr. Francis, then attorney-general, and myself, to draw up constitutions for the government of the academy; which being done and signed, a house was hired, masters engaged, and the schools opened, I think in the same year –1749. The scholars increasing fast, the house was soon found too small, and we were looking out for a piece of ground properly situated, with intent to build, when accident threw into our way a large house ready built, which, with a few alterations, might well serve our purpose. This was the building before mentioned, erected by the hearers of Mr. Whitefield, and was obtained for us in the following manner. It is to be noted that, the contributions to this building being made by the people of different sects, care was taken in the nomination of trustees, in whom the building and ground were to be vested, that a predominancy should not be given to any sect, lest in time that predominancy might be a means of appropriating the whole to the use of such sect, contrary to the original intention. It was for this reason that one of each sect was appointed; namely, one Church-of-England man, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, one Moravian, &c., who, in case of vacancy by death, were to fill it by election from among the contributors. The Moravian happened not to please his colleagues, and on his death they resolved to have no other of that sect. The difficulty then was, how to avoid having two of some other sect, by means of the new choice. Several persons were named, and for that reason not agreed to. At length one mentioned me, with the observation that I was merely an honest man, and of no sect at all; which prevailed with them to choose me. The enthusiasm which existed when the
* “Other great benefactions for this institution,” says Wm. Temple Franklin, “were subsequently obtained, both in America and Great Britain, through the influence of Dr. Franklin ; who, on his return to Philadelphia from England, in 1775, carried thence two large gold medals, given by Mr. Sargent, one of his friends, to be bestowed as prizes on such scholars as should distinguish themselves by writing on subjects to be proposed to them by the trustees or governors of the college.”