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From Mr. Abel James, (Received in Paris.) the American youth. Not that I think the
work would have no other merit and use in “ MY DEAR
HONOURED FRIEND, I the world, far from it; but the first is of such have often been desirous of writing to thee, vast importance, that I know nothing that but could not be reconciled to the thought, can equal it.”. that the letter might fall into the hands of The foregoing letter, and the minutes acthe British, lest some printer or busy body companying it, being shown to a friend, I should publish some part of the contents, and received from him the following: give our friend pain, and myself censure.
“Some time since, there fell into my hands, to my great joy, about twenty-three sheets in thy own hand-writing, containing an From Mr. Benjamin Vaughan. account of the parentage and life of thyself, directed to thy son, ending in the year 1730,
“Paris, January 31, 1783. with which there were notes, likewise in thy “ MY DEAREST SIR,-When I had read writing; a copy of which I inclose, in hopes over your sheets of minutes of the principal it may be a means, if thou continued it up to incidents of your life, recovered for you by a later period, that the first and latter part your Quaker acquaintance, I told you I may be put together; and if it is not yet con- would send you a letter, expressing my reatinued, I hope thee will not delay it. Life is sons why I thought it would be useful to uncertain, as the preacher tells us; and what complete and publish it as he desired. Variwill the world say, if kind, humane, and be ous concerns have for some time past preventnevolent Ben Franklin, should leave his friends ed this letter being written, and I do not and the world deprived of so pleasing and know whether it was worth any expectation; profitable a work; a work which would be happening to be at leisure, however, at preuseful and entertaining not only to a few, but sent, I shall, by writing, at least interest and to millions. The influence writings under instruct myself; but, as the terms I am inthat class have on the minds of youtħ, is very clined to use, may tend to offend a person of great, and has no where appeared to me so your manners, I shall only tell you how I plain, as in our public friend's journals. It would address any other person, who was as almost insensibly leads the youth into the re- good and as great as yourself
, but less diffisolution of endeavouring to become as good dent. I would say to him, sir, I solicit the hisand eminent as the journalist. Should thine, tory of your life, from the following motives : for instance, when published, (and I think it • Your history is so remarkable, that if you could not fail of it,) lead the youth to equal do not give it, somebody else will certainly the industry and temperance of thy early give it; and perhaps so as nearly to do as youth, what a blessing with that class would much harm, as your own management of the such a work be! I know of no character liv- thing might do good. ing, nor many of them put together, who has “It will, moreover, present a table of the so much in his power as thyself
, to promote a internal circumstances of your country, which greater spirit of industry and early attention will very much tend to invite to it settlers of w business, frugality, and temperance, with virtuous and manly minds. And considering the eagerness with which such information is “ The little private incidents which you sought by them, and the extent of your repu- will also have to relate, will have considertation, I do not know of a more efficacious ad- able use, as we want above all things, rules vertisement than your biography would give. of prudence in ordinary affairs ; and it will
“ All that has happened to you, is also con- be curious to see how you have acted in these. nected with the detail of the manners and It will be so far a sort of key to life, and exsituation of a rising people; and in this plain many things that all men ought to have respect I do not think that the writings of once explained to them, to give them a chance Cæsar and Tacitus can be more interesting of becoming wise by foresight. to a true judge of human nature and society. “ The nearest thing to having experience
“But these, sir, are small reasons, in my of one's own, is to have other people's affairs opinion, compared with the chance which brought before us in a shape that is interestyour life will give for the forming of future ing; this is sure to happen from your pen. great men; and, in conjunction with your Your affairs and management will have an Art of Virtue, (which you design to publish,) air of simplicity or importance that will not of improving the features of private character, fail to strike; and I am convinced
have and, consequently, of aiding all happiness, both conducted them with as much originality as public and domestic.
if you had been conducting discussions in “ The two works I allude to, sir, will, in politics or philosophy; and what more worthy particular, give a noble rule and example of of experiments and system, its importance self-education. School and other education and its errors considered) than human life! constantly proceed upon false principles, and “Some men have been virtuous blindly, show a clumsy apparatus pointed at a false others have speculated fantastically, and others mark; but your apparatus is simple, and the have been shrewd to bad purposes; but you, mark a true one; and while parents and sir, I am sure, will give under your hand, young persons are left destitute of other just nothing but what is at the same moment, means of estimating and becoming prepared wise, practical, and good. for a reasonable course in life, your discovery
“ Your account of yourself (for I suppose that the thing is in many a man's private the parallel I am drawing for Dr. Franklin, power, will be invaluable !
will hold not only in point of character but " Influence upon the private character, late of private history) will show that you are in life, is not only an influence late in life, ashamed of no origin; a thing the more imbut a weak influence. It is in youth that we portant, as you prove how little necessary all plant our chief habits and prejudices; it is in origin is to happiness, virtue, or greatness. youth that we take our party as to profession, “ As no end likewise happens without a pursuits, and matrimony. In youth, there means, so we shall find, sir, that even you fore, the turn is given; in youth the educa- yourself framed a plan by which you became tion even of the next generation is given; in considerable; but at the same time we may youth the private and public character is de- see, that though the event is flattering, the termined; and the term of life extending but means are as simple as wisdom could make from youth to age, life ought to begin well them; that is depending upon nature, virtue, from youth; and more especially before we thought, and habit
. take our party as to our principal objects. “ Another thing demonstrated will be the
“But your biography will not merely teach propriety of every man's waiting for his time self-education, but the education of a wise for appearing upon the stage of the world. man ; and the wisest man will receive lights Our sensations being very much fixed to the and improve his progress, by seeing detailed moment, we are apt to forget that more mo the conduct of another wise man. And why ments are to follow the first, and consequentare weaker men to be deprived of such helps, ly that man should arrange his conduct so as when we see our race has been blundering to suit the whole of a life. Your attribution on in the dark, almost without a guide in this appears to have been applied to your life, and particular, from the farthest trace of time. the passing moments of it have been enlivenShow then, sir, how much is to be done, both ed with content and enjoyment, instead of to sons and fathers, and invite all wise men being tormented with foolish impatience or to become like yourself; and other men to regrets. Such a conduct is easy for those become wise.
who make virtue and themselves their stand“ When we see how cruel statesmen and ard, and who try to keep themselves in warriors can be to the human race, and how countenance by examples of other truly great absurd distinguished men can be to their ac- men, of whom patience is so often the chaquaintance, it will be instructive to observe racteristic. the instances multiply of pacific acquiescing “ Your Quaker correspondent, sir, (for here manners; and to find how compatible it is to again I will suppose the subject of my letter be great and domestic; enviable and yet good resembling Dr. Franklin,) praised your fruhumoured.
gality, diligence, and temperance, which he
considered as a pattern for all youth: but it that man is not even at present a vicious and is singular that he should have forgotten your detestable animal; and still more to prove modesty, and your disinterestedness, without that good management may greatly amend which you never could have waited for your him; and it is for much the same reason, that advancement, or found your situation in the I am anxious to see the opinion established, mean time comfortable; which is a strong that there are fair characters existing among lesson to show the poverty of glory, and the the individuals of the race; for the moment importance of regulating our minds. that all men, without exception, shall be con
“ If this correspondent had known the na- ceived abandoned, good people will cease efture of your reputation as well as I do, he forts deemed to be hopeless, and perhaps would have said ; your former writings and think of taking their share in the scramble of measures would secure attention to your life, or at least of making it comfortable Biography, and Art of Virtue; and your principally for themselves. Biography and Art of Virtue, in return, would “ Take then, my dear sir, this work most secure attention to them. This is an ad- speedily into hand : show yourself good as vantage attendant upon a various character, you are good ; temperate as you are tempeand which brings all that belongs to it into rate ; and above all things, prove yourself as greater play; and it is the more useful, as one who from your infancy have loved justice, perhaps more persons are at a loss for the liberty, and concord, in a way that has made means of improving their minds and charac-it natural and consistent for you to have ters, than they are for the time or the incli- acted, as we have seen you act in the last nation to do it.
seventeen years of your life. Let English" But there is one concluding reflection, men be made not only to respect, but even to sir, that will show the use of your life as a love you. When they think well of indimere piece of biography. I'his style of viduals in your native country, they will go writing seems a little gone out of vogue, and nearer to thinking well of your country ; and yet it is a very useful one; and your speci- when your countrymen see themselves well men of it may be particularly serviceable, as thought of by Englishmen, they will go nearer it will make a subject of comparison with the to thinking well of England. Extend your lives of various public cut-throats and intrigu- views even further; do not stop at those who ers, and with absurd monastic self-tormentors, speak the English tongue, but after having or vain literary triflers. If it encourages settled so many points in nature and politics, more writings of the same kind with your think of bettering the whole race of men. own, and induces more men to spend lives fit As I have not read any part of the life in to be written; it will be worth all Plutarch's question, but know only the character that Lives put together.
lived it, I write somewhat at hazard. I am “But being tired of figuring to myself a sure however, that the life, and the treatise I character of which every feature suits only allude to (on the Art of Virtue,) will neces. one man in the world, without giving him sarily fulfil the chief of my expectations; and the praise of it; I shall end my letter, my still more so if you take up the measure of dear Dr. Franklin, with a personal applica- suiting these performances to the several tion to your proper self.
views above stated. Should they even prove “I am earnestly desirous then, my dear unsuccessful in all that a sanguine admirer sir, that you should let the world into the of yours hopes from them, you will at least traits of your genuine character, as civil broils have framed pieces to interest the human may otherwise tend to disguise or traduce it. mind; and whoever gives a feeling of pleaConsidering your great age, tne caution of sure that is innocent to man, has added so your character, and your peculiar style of much to the fair side of a life otherwise too thinking, it is not likely that any one besides much darkened by anxiety, and too much inyourself can be sufficiently master of the facts jured by pain. of your life, or the intentions of your mind. “ In the hope therefore that you will listen
“ Besides all this, the immense revolution to the prayer addressed to you in this letter, of the present period, will necessarily turn I beg to subscribe myself, my dearest sir, &c. our attention towards the author of it; and &c.
BENJ. VAUGHAN.” when virtuous principles have been pretended in it, it will be highly important to show that such have really influenced ; and, as your own character will be the principal one to receive
CONTINUATION, a scrutiny, it is proper (even for its effects
Begun at Passy near Paris, 1784. upon your vast and rising country, as well as upon England and upon Europe,) that it should It is some time since I received the above stand respectable and eternal. For the letters, but I have been too busy till now to furtherance of human happiness, I have al- think of complying with the request they conways maintained that it is necessary to prove | tain. It might too be much better done if I
were at home among my papers, which woulded by strangers to be better instructed, and
Brogden, the scrivener, said to us, “ You are
feel the impropriety of presenting oneself as At the time I established myself in Pennsyl- the proposer of any useful project, that might vania, there was not a good bookseller's shop be supposed to raise one's reputation in the in any of the colonies to the southward of smallest degree above that of one's neighbours, Boston. In New York and Philadelphia, the when one has need of their assistance to acprinters were indeed stationers, but they sold complish that project. I therefore put myonly paper, &c. almanacs, ballads, and a few self as much as I could out of sight, and stated common school-books. Those who loved it as a scheme of a number of friends, who reading were obliged to send for their books had requested me to go about and propose it from England : the members of the junto had to such as they thought lovers of reading. In each a few. We had left the alehouse, where this way my affair went on more smoothly, we first met, and hired a room to hold our and I ever after practised it on euch occaclub in. I proposed that we should all of us sions; and from my frequent successes can bring our books to that room; where they heartily recommend it. The present little would not only be ready to consult in our sacrifice of your vanity will afterwards be conferences, but become a common benefit, amply repaid. If it remains a while uncertain each of us being at liberty to borrow such as to whom the merit belongs, some one more he wished to read at home. This was ac- vain than yourself will be encouraged to cordingly done, and for some time contented claim it, and then even envy will be disposed us: finding the advantage of this little collec- tc do you justice, by plucking those assumed tion, I proposed to render the benefit from the feathers, and restoring them to their right books more common, by commencing a pub owner. lic subscription library. I drew a sketch of r This library afforded me the means of imthe plan and rules that would be necessary, provement by constant study, for which I set and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles apart an hour or two each day; and thus reBrogilen, to put the whole in form of articles paired in some degree the loss of the learned of agreement to be subscribed; by which each education my father once intended for me. subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down Reading was the only amusement I allowed for the first purchase of the books, and an myself
. I spent no time in taverns, games, annual contribution for increasing them. So or frolics of any kind ; and my industry in my few were the readers at that time in Phila- business continued as indefatigable as it was delphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I necessary. I was indebted for my printing was not able with great industry to find more house, I had a young family coming on to be thin fifty persons, (mostly young tradesmen,) educated, and I had two competitors to con willing to pay down for this purpose forty tend with for business, who were established shillings each, and ten shillings per annum , in the place before me. My circumstances with this little fund we began. The books however grew daily easier. My original were imported; the library was open one day habits of frugality continuing, and my father in the week for lending them to subscribers, having among his instructions to me when a on their promissory notes to pay double the boy, frequently repeated a Proverb of Solo value if not duly returned. The institution mon, “seest thou a man diligent in his callsoon manifested its utility, was imitated by ing, he shall stand before kings, he shall other towns, and in other provinces. The not stand before mean men.” I thence conlibraries were augmented by donations; read- sidered industry as a means of obtaining ing became fashionable; and our people hav- wealth and distinction, which encouraged ing no public amusements to divert their at- me; though I did not think that I should ever tention from study, became better acquainted literally stand before kings, which however with books; and in a few years were observ- | has since happened; for I have stood before
five, and even had the honour of sitting down Though I seldom attended any public wor. with one, (the king of Denmark,) to dinner. ship, I had still an opinion of its propriety, We have an English proverb that says, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and “He that would thrive,
I regularly paid my annual subscription for Must ask his wife;"
the support of the only Presbyterian minister it was lucky for me that I had one as much or meeting we had in Philadelphia. He used disposed to industry and frugality as myself. to visit me sometimes as a friend, and admoShe assisted me cheerfully in my business, nish me to attend his administrations; and I folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, was now and then prevailed on to do so; once purchasing old linen rags for the paper ma- for five Sundays successively. Had he been kers, &c.
We kept no idle servants, our in my opinion a good preacher, perhaps I might table was plain and simple, our furniture of have continued, notwithstanding the occasion the cheapest For instance, my breakfast I had for the Sunday's leisure in my course was for a long time bread and milk, (no tea) of study: but his discourses were chiefly either and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen por- polemic arguments, or explications of the peringer, with a pewter spoon: but mark how culiar doctrines of our sect, and were all to me luxury will enter families, and make a pro- very dry, uninteresting, and unedifying, since gress in spite of principle; being called one not a single moral principle was inculcated morning to breakfast, I found it in a china or enforced ; their aim seeming to be rather to bowl, with a spoon of silver. They had been make us Presbyterians, than good citizens. bought for me without my knowledge by my At length he took for his text that verse of wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of the fourth chapter to the Philippians, “Fithree and twenty shillings; for which she had nally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, no other excuse or apology to make, but that honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report, she thought her busband deserved a silver if there be any virtue, or any praise, think spoon and china bowl as well as any of his on these things.” And I imagined in a sermon neighbours. This was the first appearance on such a text, we could not miss of having of plate and china in our house, which after some morality. But he confined himself to wards, in a course of years, as our wealth in- five points only, as meant by the apostle, viz. creased, augmented gradually to several hun- 1. Keeping holy the Sabbath day; 2. Being dred pounds in value.
diligent in reading the holy Scriptures; 3. I had been religiously educated as a Presby- Attending duly the public worship; 4. Parterian; but though some of the dogmas of that taking of the sacrament; 5. Paying a due Persuasion, such as the eternal decrees of respect to God's ministers. These might be God, election, reprobation, &c. appeared to all good things, but as they were not the kind me unintelligible, and I early absented my- of good things that I expected from that text, self from the public assemblies of the sect, I despaired of ever meeting with them from (Sunday being my studying day.), I never any other, was disgusted, and attended his was without some religious principles: I ne- preaching no more. I had some years before ver doubted, for instance, the existence of a composed a little liturgy, or form of prayer, Deity, that he made the world, and governed for my own private use, (viz. in 1728,) entiit by his providence; that the most acceptable tled Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion. service of God was the doing good to man; I returned to the use of this, and went no that our souls are immortal; and that all more to the public assemblies. My conduct crimes will be punished, and virtue rewarded, might be blameable, but I leave it without either here or hereafter; these I esteemed attempting further to excuse it; my present the essentials of every religion, and being purpose being to relate facts, and not to make to be found in all the religions we had in apologies for them. our country, I respected them all, though It was about this time I conceived the bold with different degrees of respect, as I found and arduous project of arriving at moral perthem more or less mixed with other articles, fection; I wished to live without committing which, without any tendency to inspire, pro any fault at any time, and to conquer all that mote, or confirm morality, served principally either natural inclination, custom, or company, to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one might lead me into. As I knew, or thought another. This respect to all, with an opinion I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not that the worst had some effects, induced see why I might not always do the one and me to avoid all discourse that might tend to avoid the other. But I soon found I had unlessen the good opinion another might have dertaken a task of more difficulty than I had of his own religion; and as our province in- imagined: while my attention was taken up, creased in people, and new places of worship and care employed in guarding against one were continually wanted, and generally erect- fault, I was often surprised by another; habit ed by voluntary contribution, my mite for took the advantage of inattention; inclination such purpose, whatever might be the sect, was sometimes too strong for reason. I conwas never refused.
cluded, at length, that the mere speculative VOL. I. ... E