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previously so as to many doctrines of Christianity, I found Socrates' method to be both the safest for myself, as well as the most embarrassing to those against whom I employed it. It soon afforded me singular pleasure; I incessantly practised it, and became very adroit in obtaining, even from persons of superior understanding, concessions of which they did not foresee the consequences. Thus I involved them in difficulties from which they were unable to extricate themselves, and sometimes obtained victories, which neither my cause nor my arguments merited.

This method I continued to employ for some years; but I afterwards abandoned it by degrees, retaining only the habit of expressing myself with modest diffidence, and never making use, when I advanced my proposition which might be controverted, of the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that might give the appearance of being obstinately attached to my opinion. I rather said, I imagine, I suppose, or it appears to me, that such a thing is so or so, for such and such reasons; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit has, I think, been of considerable advantage to me, when I had occasion to impress my opinion on the minds of others, and persuade them to the adoption of the measures I have suggested. And since the chief ends of conversation are, to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I could wish that intelligent and well-meaning men would not themselves diminish the powers they possess of being useful, by a positive and presumtuous manner of expressing themselves, which scarcely ever fails to disgust the hearer, and is only calculated to excite opposition, and defeat every purpose for which the faculty of speech has been bestowed upon man.

In short, if you wish to inform, a positive and dogmatical manner of advancing your opinion may provoke contradiction, and prevent your being heard with attention. On the other hand, if, with a desire of being informed, and of benefitting by the knowledge of others, you express yourselves as being strongly attached to your own opinions, modest and sensible men, who do not love disputation, will leave you in tranquil possession of your errors. By following such a method, you can rarely hope to please your auditors, conciliate their good will, or work conviction on those whom you may be desirous of gaining over to your views. Pope judiciously ob


Men must be taught as if you taught them not,

And things unknown, propos'd as things forgot.

And in the same poem he afterwards advises us, To speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence.

He might have added to these lines, one that he has coupled elsewhere, in my opinion, with less propriety. It is this:


For want of decency is want of sense.

you ask why I say, with less propriety, I must give you the two lines together:

Immodest words admit of no defence,

For want of decency, is want of sense.

Now, want of sense, when a man has the misfor tune to be so circumstanced, is it not a kind of excuse for want of modesty? And would not the verses have been more accurate, if they had been constructed thus:

Immodest words admit but this defence

That want of decency is want of sense? But I leave the dicision of this to better judges than myself.


In 1720 or 1721, my brother began to print a new public paper. It was the second that made its appearance in America, and was entitled the "New-England Courant." The only one that existed before was the Boston News-Letter." Some of his friends, I remember, would have dissuaded him from this undertaking, as a thing that was not likely to succeed; a single newspaper being, in their opinion, sufficient for all America. At present, however, in 1771, there are no less than twenty-five. But he carried his project into execution and I was employed in distributing the copies to his customers, after having assisted in composing and working them off.

Among his friends he had a number of literary characters, who, as an amusement, wrote short essays for the paper, which gave it reputation and increased the sale. These gentlemen frequently came to our house. I heard the conversation that passed, and the accounts they gave of the favorable reception of their writings with the public. I was tempted to try my hand among them; but, being still a child as it were, I was fearful that my brother might be unwilling to print in his paper any performance of which he should know me to be the author. I therefore contrived to disguise my hand; and having written an anonymous piece, I placed it at night under the door of the printing-house, where it was found the next morning. My brother communicated it to his friends, when they came as usual to see him, who read it, commented upon it within my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure to find that it met with their approbation; and that, in their various conjectures they made respecting the author, no one was mentioned who did not enjoy a high reputation in the country for talents and genius, I now supposed myself

fortunate in my judges, and began to suspect that they were not such excellent writers as I had hitherto supposed them. Be that as it may, encouraged by this little adventure, I wrote and sent to the press, in the same way, many other pieces, which were equally approved; keeping the secret till my slender stock of information and knowledge for such performances was pretty completely exhausted, when I made myself known.

My brother, upon this discovery, began to entertain a little more respect for me; but he still regarded himself as my master, and treated me as an apprentice. He thought himself entitled to the same services from me,as from any other person. On the contrary, I conceived that, in many instances, he was too rigorous, and that, on the part of a brother, I had a right to expect greater indulgence. Our disputes were frequently brought before my father; and either my brother was generally in the wrong, or I was the better pleader of the two, for judgement was commonly given in my favour. But my brother was passionate, and often had recourse to blows;-a circumstance which I took in very ill part. This severe and tyrannical treatment contributed, I believe, to imprint on my mind that aversion to arbitrary power, which, during my whole life, I have ever preserved. My apprenticeship became insupportable to me, and I continually sighed for an opportunity of shortening it;-which at length, unexpectedly, offered.

An article,inserted in our paper upon some political subject, which I have now forgotten, gave offence to the assembly. My brother was taken into custody, censured, and ordered into confinement for a month, because, as I presume, he would not discover the author. I was also taken

up: and examined before the council; but, though I gave them no satisfaction, they contented themselves with reprimanding, and then dismissed me; considering me, probably, as bound, in quality of an apprentice, to keep my master's secrets.

The imprisonment of my brother, kindled my resentment, notwithstanding our private quarrels. During its continuance the management of the paper was intrusted to me, and I was bold enough to insert some pasquinades against the governors; which highly pleased my brother, while others began to look upon me in an unfavourable point of view, considering me as a young wit, inclined to satire and lampoon.

My brother's enlargement was accompanied with an arbitrary order from the house of assembly, "That James Franklin should no longer print the newspaper entitled the New England Courant." In this conjuncture, we held a consultation of our friends at the printing-house, in order to determine what was proper to be done. Some proposed to evade the order, by changing the title of the paper; but my brother, foreseeing inconveniences, that would result from this step, thought it better that it should in future be printed in the name of Benjamin Franklin; and to avoid the censure of the assembly, who might charge him with still printing the paper himself, under the name of his apprentice, it was resolved that my old indentures should be given up to me, with a full and entire discharge, written on the back, in order to be produced upon an emergency; but that, to secure to my brother the benefit of my service, I should sign a new contract, which should be kept secret during the remainder of the term This was a very shallow arrangement. It was, however, carried into immediate execution, and the paper continued, in consequence, to make

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