Abbildungen der Seite

workman; but if you agree to the proposal, your skill in the business will be balanced by the capital I shall furnish, and we will share the profits equally." His proposal was seasonable, and I fell in with it. His father, who was then in the town, approved of it. He knew that I had some ascendancy ovsr hii son, as I had been able to prevail on him to abstain a long time from drinking brandy: and he hoped that, when more closely connected with him, I should cure him entirely of this unfortunate habit.

I gave the father a list of what it would be necessary to import from London. He took it to a merchant, and the order was given. We agreed to keep the secret till the arrival of the materials, and I was in the meantime to procure work, if possible, in another printing-house; but there was no place vacant, and I remained idle. After some days, Keimer having the expectation of being employed to print some New Jersey money bills, that would require types and engravings which I only could furnish, and fearful that Bradford, by engaging me, might deprive him of this undertaking, sent me a very civil message, telling me that old friends ought not to be disunited on account of a few words, which were the effect only of a momentary passion, and inviting me to return to him. Meredith persuaded me to comply with the invitation, particularly as it would afford him more opportunities of improving himself in the business by means of my instructions. I did so; and we lived upon better terms than before our separation.

He obtained the New-Jersey business; and, in order to execute it, I constructed a copper-plate printing-press, the first that had been seen in the country. I engraved various ornaments and vignettes for the bills; and we repaired to Burlington together, where I executed the whole to general satisfaction; and he received a sum of money for this work, which enabled him to keep his head above water for a considerable time longer.

At Burlington I formed an acquaintance with the principal personages of the province; many of wlv im were commissioned by the Assembly to superintend the press, and to see that no more bills were pnu..-d than the law had prescribed. Accordingly they were constantly with us, each in his turn; and he that came, commonly brought with him a friend or two to bear him company. My mind was more cultivated by reading than Keimer's; and it was fortius reason, probably, that they setmore value on my conversation. They took me to their houses, introduced me to their friends, and treated me with the greatest civility; while Keimer, though master, saw himself a little neglected. He was, in fact, a strange animal, ignorant of the common modes of life, apt to oppose with rudeness generally received opinions, an enthusiast in certain points of religion, disgustingly unclean in his person, and a little knavish withal.

We remained there nearly three months; and at the expiration of this period I could include in the list of my friends, Judge Allen, Samuel Bustil, secretary of the province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, several of the Smiths, all members of the Assembly, and Isaac Decon, inspector-general. The last was a shrewd and subtle old man. He told me, that when a boy, his first employment had been that of carrying clay to brick-makers; that he did not learn to write till he was somewhat advanced in life; that he was afterwards employed as an underling to a surveyor, who taught him this trade, and that by industry he had at last acquired a competent fortune. "I foresee,'' said he one day to me "that you will soon supplant this man (speakin . of Keimer,) and get a fortune in the business at Philadelphia." He was totally ignorant at the time, of my intention of establishing myself there, or any where else. These friends were very serviceable to me in the end, as I was also, upon occasion, to some of them; and they have continued ever since their esteem for me.

Before I relate the particulars of my entrance into business, it may be proper to inform you what was at that time the state of my mind as to moral principles, that you may see the degree of influence they had upon the subsequent events of my life.

My parents had given me betimes religious impressions, uid I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after hai* mg doubted in turn of different tenets, according at 1 found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of revelation itself. Some volumes against deism fell into my hands. They were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lecture. It happened that they produced on me an effect precisely the reverse of what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me much more forcible than the refutation itself. In a word, I soon became a perfect deist. My arguments perverted some other youni persons, particularly Collins and Ralph. But in the sequel, when I recollected that they had both used me extremely ill, without the smallest remorse; when I considered the behaviour of Keith, another free thinker, and my own conduct towards Vernon and Miss Read, which, at times, gave me great uneasiness, I was led to suspect thai this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful. I began to entertain a less favourable opinion of my London pamphlet, to which I had prefixed, as a motto, the following lines of Dryden:

Whatever is is right; though purblind man Sees but part of the chain, the nearest link, His eyes not carrying to the equal beam That poises all above. And of which the object was to prove, from the attributes of God, his goodness, wisdom and power, that there could be no such thing as evil in the world; tha ▼ice and virtue did not in reality exist, and were nothing more than vain distinctions. I no longer re carded it as so blameless a work as I had formerly imagined; and I suspected that some error must have imperceptibly glided into my argument, by which all the mferences! bad drawn from it had been affected, as frequently happens in metaphysical reasonings. In a word, I was at last convinced that truth, probity, and sincerity, in transactions between man and man,were of the utmost importance to the happiness of life; and I resolved from that moment, and wrote thi

resolution in my Journal, to practise them as long as I lived.

Revelation, indeed, as such, had no influence on my mind; but I was of opinion that, though certain actions could not be bad merely because revelation had prohibited them, or good because it enjoined them, yet it was probable that those actions were prohibited because they were bad for us, or enjoined because advantageous in their nature, all things com sidersd. This persuasion, Divme Provmence, or some guardian angel, and perhaps a concurrence of favourable circumstances co-operating, preserved me from all immorality, or gross and voluntary injustice, to which my want of religion was calculated to expose me, in the dangerous period of youth, and in the hazardous situations in which I sometimes found myself, among strangers, and at a distance from the eye and admonitions of my father. I may say voluntary, because the errors into which I had fallen, had been in a manner the forced result either of my own inex

r:riencetor the dishonesty of others. Thus, before entered on my own new career, I had imbibed solid principles, and a character of probity. I knew their value; and I made a solemn engagement with myself never to depart from them.

I had not long returned from Burlington before our printing materials arrived from London. I settled my accounts with Keimer, and quitted him, with his own consent, before he had any knowledge of our plan. We found a house to let near the market. We took it; and, to render the rent less bt: Jensome (it was then twenty-four pounds a year, but I have since known it let for seventy), we admitted Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, with his family, who eased us of* considerable part of it; and with him we agreed to board.

We had no sooner unpacked our letters, and put our press in order, than a person of my acquaintance, George House, brought us a countryman, whom he had met in the streets inquiring for a printer. Our money was almost exhausted by the number of things we had been obliged to procure. The five shillings we received from this countryman, the first fiuit of our earnings, coming so seasonably, gave me mow pleasure any sum I have since gained; and the recollection of the gratitude I felt on this occasion to George House, has rendered me often more disposed, than perhaps I should otherwise have been, to encourage young beginners in trade.

There are in every country morose beings, who are always prognosticating ruin. There was one of this stamp at Philadelphia. He was a man of fortune, declined in years, had an air of wisdom, and a very grave manner of speaking. His name was Samuel Mickle. I knew him not; but he stopped one day at my door, and asked me if I was the young man who had lately opened a new printing-house. Upon my answering in the affirmative, he said that he was very sorry for me, as it was an expensive undertaking, and the money that had been laid out upon it would be lost, Philadelphia being a place falling into decay; its inhabitants having all, or nearly all of them, been obliged to call together their creditors. That he knew, from undoubted fact, the circumstances which might lead us to suppose the contrary, such as new buildings, and the advanced price of rent, to be deceitful appearances, which in reality contributed to hasten the general ruin; and he gave me so long a detail of misfortunes, actually existing, or which were soon i0 lake place, that he left me almost in a state of despair. Had I known this man before I entered into trade, I should doubtless never have ventured. He continued, however, to live in this place of decay, and to declaim in the same style, refusing for many years to buy a house, bc-tuse all was going to wreck; and in the end, J had the satisfaction to see him pay five times as much for one as it would have cost him had he purchased it when he first began his lamentations. I ought to have related, that, during the autumn of the preceding year, I had united the majority of well-informed persons of my acquaintance into a club, which we called by the name of the Junto, and the object of which was to improve our understandings. We met every Friday evening. The regulations I drew up, obliged every member to propose, in his turn, one or more questions upon some point of mo

« ZurückWeiter »