The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Author: Benjamin Franklin  | Date: 1771

Part One

Twyford, at the Bishop of St Asaph’s 1771.

Dear Son,

I have ever had a Pleasure in obtaining any little Anecdotes of my Ancestors. You may remember the Enquiries I made among the Remains of my Relations when you were with me in England; and the journey I took for that purpose. Now imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the Circumstances of my Life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with; and expecting a Weeks uninterrupted Leisure in my present Country Retirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have besides some other Inducements. Having emerg’d from the Poverty & Obscurity in which I was born & bred, to a State of Affluence & some Degree of Reputation in the World, and having gone so far thro’ Life with a considerable Share of Felicity, the conducing Means I made use of, which, with the Blessing of God, so well succeeded, my Posterity may like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own Situations, & therefore fit to be imitated.- That Felicity, when I reflected on it, has induc’d me sometimes to say, that were it offer’d to my Choice, I should have no Objection to a Repetition of the same Life from its Beginning, only asking the Advantage Authors have in a second Edition to correct some Faults of the first. So would I if I might, besides correcting the Faults, change some sinister Accidents & Events of it for others more favourable, but tho’ this were deny’d, I should still accept the Offer. However, since such a Repetition is not to be expected, the Thing most like living one’s Life over again, seems to be a Recollection of that Life; and to make that Recollection as durable as possible, the putting it down in Writing.- Hereby, too, I shall indulge the Inclination so natural in old Men, to be talking of themselves and their own past Actions, and I shall indulge it, without being troublesome to others who thro’ respect to Age might think themselves oblig’d to give me a Hearing, since this may be read or not as any one pleases. And lastly, (I may as well confess it, since my Denial of it will be believ’d by no body) perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own Vanity. Indeed I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory Words, Without Vanity I may say, &c. but some vain thing immediately follow’d. Most People dislike Vanity in others whatever Share they have of it themselves, but I give it fair Quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of Good to the Possessor & to others that are within his Sphere of Action: And therefore in many Cases it would not be quite absurd if a Man were to thank God for his Vanity among the other Comforts of Life.-

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all Humility to acknowledge, that I owe the mention’d Happiness of my past Life to his kind Providence, which led me to the Means I us’d & gave them Success.- My Belief of This, induces me to hope, tho’ I must not presume, that the same Goodness will still be exercis’d towards me in continuing that Happiness, or in enabling me to bear a fatal Reverso, which I may experience as others have done, the Complexion of my future Fortune being known to him only: and in whose Power it is to bless to us even our Afflictions.

The Notes one of my Uncles (who had the same kind of Curiosity in collecting Family Anecdotes) once put into my Hands, furnish’d me with several Particulars, relating to our Ancestors. From those Notes I learnt that the Family had liv’d in the same Village, Ecton in Northamptonshire, for 300 Years, & how much longer he knew not, (perhaps from the Time when the Name Franklin that before was the Name of an Order of People, was assum’d by them for a Surname, when others took Surnames all over the Kingdom.-) *001 on a Freehold of about 30 Acres, aided by the Smith’s Business which had continued in the Family till his Time, the eldest Son being always bred to that Business. A Custom which he & my Father both followed as to their eldest Sons.- When I search’d the Register at Ecton, I found an Account of their Births, Marriages and Burials, from the Year 1555 only, there being no Register kept in that Parish at any time preceding.- By that Register I perceiv’d that I was the youngest Son of the youngest Son for 5 Generations back. My Grandfather Thomas, who was born in 1598, lived at Ecton till he grew too old to follow Business longer, when he went to live with his Son John, a Dyer at Banbury in Oxfordshire, with whom my Father serv’d an Apprenticeship. There my Grandfather died and lies buried. We saw his Gravestone in 1758. His eldest Son Thomas liv’d in the House at Ecton, and left it with the Land to his only Child, a Daughter, who with her Husband, one Fisher of Wellingborough sold it to Mr Isted, now Lord of the Manor there. My Grandfather had 4 Sons that grew up, viz. Thomas, John, Benjamin and Josiah. I will give you what Account I can of them at this distance from my Papers, and if those are not lost in my Absence, you will among them find many more Particulars. Thomas was bred a Smith under his Father, but being ingenious, and encourag’d in Learning (as all his Brothers like wise werre,) by an Esquire Palmer then the principal Gentleman in that Parish, he qualify’d himself for the Business of Scrivener, became a considerable Man in the County Affairs, was a chief Mover of all publick Spirited Undertakings, for the County or Town of Northampton & his own Village, of which many Instances were told us at Ecton and he was much taken Notice of and patroniz’d by the then Lord Halifax. He died in 1702 Jan. 6. old Stile, just 4 Years to a Day before I was born. The Account we receiv’d of his Life & Character from some old People at Ecton, I remember struck you as something extraordinary from its Similarity to what you knew of mine. Had he died on the same Day, you said one might have suppos’d a Transmigration.- John was bred a Dyer, I believe of Woollens. Benjamin, was bred a Silk Dyer, serving an Apprenticeship at London. He was an ingenious Man, I remember him well, for when I was a Boy he came over to my Father in Boston, and lived in the House with us some Years. He lived to a great Age. His Grandson Samuel Franklin now lives in Boston. He left behind him two Quarto Volumes, M.S. of his own Poetry, consisting of little occasional Pieces address’d to his Friends and Relations, of which the following sent to me, is a Specimen.

Sent to My Name upon a Report

of his Inclination to Martial affaires

7 July 1710

Beleeve me Ben. It is a Dangerous Trade

The Sword has Many Marr’d as well as Made

By it doe many fall Not Many Rise

Makes Many poor few Rich and fewer Wise

Fills Towns with Ruin, fields with blood beside

Tis Sloths Maintainer, And the Shield of pride

Fair Citties Rich to Day, in plenty flow

War fills with want, Tomorrow, & with woe

Ruin’d Estates, The Nurse of Vice, broke limbs & scarss

Are the Effects of Desolating Warrs

Sent to B. F. in N. E. 15 July 1710

B e to thy parents an Obedient Son

E ach Day let Duty constantly be Done

N ever give Way to sloth or lust or pride

I f free you’d be from Thousand Ills beside

A bove all Ills be sure Avoide the shelfe

M ans Danger lyes in Satan sin and selfe

I n vertue Learning Wisdome progress Make

N ere shrink at Suffering for thy saviours sake

F raud and all Falshood in thy Dealings Flee

R eligious Always in thy station be

A dore the Maker of thy Inward part

N ow’s the Accepted time, Give him thy Heart

K eep a Good Consceince ’tis a constant Frind

L ike Judge and Witness This Thy Acts Attend

I n Heart with bended knee Alone Adore

N one but the Three in One Forevermore.

He had form’d a Shorthand of his own, which he taught me, but never practicing it I have now forgot it. I was nam’d after this Uncle, there being a particular Affection between him and my Father. He was very pious, a great Attender of Sermons of the best Preachers, which he took down in his Shorthand and had with him many Volumes of them.- He was also much of a Politician, too much perhaps for his Station. There fell lately into my Hands in London a Collection he had made of all the principal Pamphlets relating to Publick Affairs from 1641 to 1717. any of the Volumes are wanting, as appears by the Numbering, but there still remains 8 Vols. Folio, and 24 in quarto & octavo.- A Dealer in old Books met with them, and knowing me by my sometimes buying of him, he brought them to me. It seems my Uncle must have left them here when he went to America, which was above 50 Years since. There are many of his Notes in the Margins.-

This obscure Family of ours was early in the Reformation, and continu’d Protestants thro’ the Reign of Queen Mary, when they were sometimes in Danger of Trouble on Account of their Zeal against Popery. They had got an English Bible, & to conceal & secure it, it was fastned open with Tapes under & within the Frame of a Joint Stool. When my Great Great Grandfather read in it to his Family, he turn’d up the Joint Stool upon his Knees, turning over the Leaves then under the Tapes. One of the Children stood at the Door to give Notice if he saw the Apparitor coming, who was an Officer of the Spiritual Court. In that Case the Stool was turn’d down again upon its feet, when the Bible remain’d conceal’d under it as before. This Anecdote I had from my Uncle Benjamin.- The Family continu’d all of the Church of England till about the End of Charles the Second’s Reign, when some of the Ministers that had been outed for Nonconformity, holding Conventicles in Northamptonshire, Benjamin & Josiah adher’d to them, and so continu’d all their Lives. The rest of the Family remain’d with the Episcopal Church.

Josiah, my Father, married young, and carried his Wife with three Children unto New England, about 1682. The Conventicles having been forbidden by Law, & frequently disturbed, induced some considerable Men of his Acquaintance to remove to that Country, and he was prevail’d with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy their Mode of Religion with Freedom.- By the same Wife he had 4 Children more born there, and by a second Wife ten more, in all 17, of which I remember 13 sitting at one time at his Table, who all grew up to be Men & Women, and married;- I was the youngest Son and the youngest Child but two, & was born in Boston, N. England.

My Mother the second Wife was Abiah Folger, a Daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first Settlers of New England, of whom honourable mention is made by Cotton Mather, in his Church History of that Country, (entitled Magnalia Christi Americana) as a godly learned Englishman, if I remember the Words rightly.- I have heard that he wrote sundry small occasional Pieces, but only one of them was printed which I saw now many Years since. It was written in 1675, in the homespun Verse of that Time & People, and address’d to those then concern’d in the Government there. It was in favour of Liberty of Conscience, & in behalf of the Baptists, Quakers, & other Sectaries, that had been under Persecution; ascribing the Indian Wars & other Distresses, that had befallen the Country to that Persecution, as so many judgments of God, to punish so heinous an Offence; and exhorting a Repeal of those uncharitable Laws. The whole appear’d to me as written with a good deal of Decent Plainness & manly Freedom. The six last concluding Lines I remember, tho’ I have forgotten the two first of the Stanza, but the Purport of them was that his Censures proceeded from Goodwill, & therefore he would be known as the Author,

because to be a Libeller, (says he)

I hate it with my Heart.

From Sherburne Town *002 where now I dwell,

My Name I do put here,

Without Offence, your real Friend,

It is Peter Folgier.

My elder Brothers were all put Apprentices to different Trades. I was put to the Grammar School at Eight Years of Age, my Father intending to devote me as the Tithe of his Sons to the Service of the Church. My early Readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read) and the Opinion of all his Friends that I should certainly make a good Scholar, encourag’d him in this Purpose of his. My Uncle Benjamin too approv’d of it, and propos’d to give me all his Shorthand Volumes of Sermons I suppose as a Stock to set up with, if I would learn his Character. I continu’d however at the Grammar School not quite one Year, tho’ in that time I had risen gradually from the Middle of the Class of that Year to be the Head of it, and farther was remov’d into the next Class above it, in order to go with that into the third at the End of the Year. But my Father in the mean time, from a View of the Expence of a College Education which, having so large a Family, he could not well afford, and the mean Living many so educated were afterwards able to obtain, Reasons that he gave to his Friends in my Hearing, altered his first Intention, took me from the Grammar School, and sent me to a School for Writing & Arithmetic kept by a then famous Man, Mr Geo. Brownell, very successful in his Profession generally, and that by mild encouraging Methods. Under him I acquired fair Writing pretty soon, but I fail’d in the Arithmetic, & made no Progress in it.- At Ten Years old, I was taken home to assist my Father in his Business, which was that of a Tallow Chandler and Sope-Boiler. A Business he was not bred to, but had assumed on his Arrival in New England & on finding his Dying Trade would not maintain his Family, being in little Request. Accordingly I was employed in cutting Wick for the Candles, filling the Dipping Mold, & the Molds for cast Candles, attending the Shop, going of Errands, &c.- I dislik’d the Trade and had a strong Inclination for the Sea; but my Father declar’d against it; however, living near the Water, I was much in and about it, learnt early to swim well & to manage Boats, and when in a Boat or Canoe with other Boys I was commonly allow’d to govern, especially in any case of Difficulty; and upon other Occasions I was generally a Leader among the Boys, and sometimes led them into Scrapes, of which I will mention one Instance, as it shows an early projecting public Spirit, tho’ not then justly conducted. There was a Salt Marsh that bounded part of the Mill Pond, on the Edge of which at Highwater, we us’d to stand to fish for Minews. By much Trampling, we had made it a mere Quagmire. My Proposal was to build a Wharf there fit for us to stand upon, and I show’d my Comrades a large Heap of Stones which were intended for a new House near the Marsh, and which would very well suit our Purpose. Accordingly in the Evening when the Workmen were gone, I assembled a Number of my Playfellows, and working with them diligently like so many Emmets, sometimes two or three to a Stone, we brought them all away and built our little Wharff.- The next Morning the Workmen were surpriz’d at Missing the Stones; which were found in our Wharff; Enquiry was made after the Removers; we were discovered & complain’d of; several of us were corrected by our Fathers; and tho’ I pleaded the Usefulness of the Work, mine convinc’d me that nothing was useful which was not honest.-

I think you may like to know something of his Person & Character. He had an excellent Constitution of Body, was of middle Stature, but well set and very strong. He was ingenious, could draw prettily, was skill’d a little in Music and had a clear pleasing Voice, so that when he play’d Psalm Tunes on his Violin & sung withal as he some times did in an Evening after the Business of the Day was over, it was extreamly agreable to hear. He had a mechanical Genius too, and on occasion was very handy in the Use of other Tradesmen’s Tools. But his great Excellence lay in a sound Understanding, and solid Judgment in prudential Matters, both in private & publick Affairs. In the latter indeed he was never employed, the numerous Family he had to educate & the Straitness of his Circumstances, keeping him close to his Trade, but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading People, who consulted him for his Opinion on Affairs of the Town or of the Church he belong’d to & show’d a good deal of Respect for his Judgment and Advice. He was also much consulted by private Persons about their Affairs when any Difficulty occur’d, & frequently chosen an Arbitrator between contending Parties.- At his Table he lik’d to have as often as he could, some sensible Friend or Neighbour, to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful Topic for Discourse, which might tend to improve the Minds of his Children. By this means he turn’d our Attention to what was good, just, & prudent in the Conduct of Life; and little or no Notice was ever taken of what related to the Victuals on the Table, whether it was well or ill drest, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind; so that I was bro’t up in such a perfect Inattention to those Matters as to be quite Indifferent what kind of Food was set before me; and so unobservant of it, that to this Day, if I am ask’d I can scarce tell, a few Hours after Dinner, what I din’d upon.- This has been a Convenience to me in travelling, where my Companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable Gratification of their more delicate because better instructed Tastes and Appetites.-

My Mother had likewise an excellent Constitution. She suckled all her 10 Children. I never knew either my Father or Mother to have any Sickness but that of which they dy’d, he at 89 & she at 85 Years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some Years since plac’d a Marble stone over their Grave with this Inscription

Josiah Franklin

And Abiah his Wife

Lie here interred.

They lived lovingly together in Wedlock

Fifty-five Years.-

Without an Estate or any gainful Employment,

By constant Labour and Industry,

With God’s Blessing,

They maintained a large Family


And brought up thirteen Children,

And seven Grandchildren


From this Instance, Reader,

Be encouraged to Diligence in thy Calling,

And distrust not Providence.

He was a pious & prudent Man,

She a discreet and virtuous Woman.

Their youngest Son,

In filial Regard to their Memory,

Places this Stone.

J. F. born 1655- Died 1744. Aetat 89

A. F. born 1667- died 1752 _____ 85

By my rambling Digressions I perceive my self to be grown old. I us’d to write more methodically.- But one does not dress for private Company as for a publick Ball. ’Tis perhaps only Negligence.-

To return. I continu’d thus employ’d in my Father’s Business for two Years, that is till I was 12 Years old; and my Brother John, who was bred to that Business having left my Father, married and set up for himself at Rhodeisland, there was all Appearance that I was destin’d to supply his Place and be a Tallow Chandler. But my Dislike to the Trade continuing, my Father was under Apprehensions that if he did not find one for me more agreable, I should break away and get to Sea, as his Son Josiah had done to his great Vexation. He therefore sometimes took me to walk with him, and see Joiners, Bricklayers, Turners, Braziers, &c. at their Work, that he might observe my Inclination, & endeavour to fix it on some Trade or other on Land.- It has ever since been a Pleasure to me to see good Workmen handle their Tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so much by it, as to be able to do little Jobs my self in my House, when a Workman could not readily be got; & to construct little Machines for my Experiments while the Intention of making the Experiment was fresh & warm in my Mind. My Father at last fix’d upon the Cutler’s Trade, and my Uncle Benjamin’s Son Samuel who was bred to that Business in London being about that time establish’d in Boston, I was sent to be with him some time on liking. But his Expectations of a Fee with me displeasing my Father, I was taken home again.-

From a Child I was fond of Reading, and all the little Money that came into my Hands was ever laid out in Books. Pleas’d with the Pilgrim’s Progress, my first Collection was of John Bunyan’s Works, in separate little Volumes. I afterwards sold them to enable me to buy Burton’s Historical Collections; they were small Chapmen’s Books A. and cheap, 40 or 50 in all.- My Father’s little Library consisted chiefly of Books in polemic Divinity, most of which I read, and have since often regretted, that at a time when I had such a Thirst for Knowledge, more proper Books had not fallen in my Way, since it was now resolv’d I should not be a Clergyman. Plutarch’s Lives there was, in which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great Advantage. There was also a Book of Defoe’s called an Essay on Projects and another of Dr Mather’s call’d Essays to do Good, which perhaps gave me a Turn of Thinking that had an Influence on some of the principal future Events of my Life.

This Bookish Inclination at length determin’d my Father to make me a Printer, tho’ he had already one Son, (James) of that Profession. In 1717 my Brother James return’d from England with a Press & Letters to set up his Business in Boston. I lik’d it much better than that of my Father, but still had a Hankering for the Sea.- To prevent the apprehended Effect of such an Inclination, my Father was impatient to have me bound to my Brother. I stood out some time, but at last was persuaded and signed the Indentures, when I was yet but 12 Years old.- I was to serve as an Apprentice till I was 21 Years of Age, only I was to be allow’d Journeyman’s Wages during the last Year. In a little time I made great Proficiency in the Business, and became a useful Hand to my Brother. I now had Access to better Books. An Acquaintance with the Apprentices of Booksellers, enabled me sometimes to borrow a small one, which I was careful to return soon & clean. Often I sat up in my Room reading the greatest Part of the Night, when the Book was borrow’d in the Evening & to be return’d early in the Morning lest it should be miss’d or wanted.- And after some time an ingenious Tradesman *003 who had a pretty Collection of Books, & who frequented our Printing House, took Notice of me, invited me to his Library, & very kindly lent me such Books as I chose to read. I now took a Fancy to Poetry, and made some little Pieces. My Brother, thinking it might turn to account encourag’d me, & put me on composing two occasional Ballads. One was called the Light House Tragedy, & contain’d an Account of the drowning of Capt. Worthilake with his Two Daughters; the other was a Sailor Song on the Taking of Teach or Blackbeard the Pirate. They were wretched Stuff, in the Grubstreet Ballad Stile, and when they were printed he sent me about the Town to sell them. The first sold wonderfully, the Event being recent, having made a great Noise. This flatter’d my Vanity. But my Father discourag’d me, by ridiculing my Performances, and telling me Verse-makers were generally Beggars; so I escap’d being a Poet, most probably a very bad one. But as Prose Writing has been a great Use to me in the Course of my Life, and was a principal Means of my Advancement, I shall tell you how in such a Situation I acquir’d what little Ability I have in that Way.

There was another Bookish Lad in the Town, John Collins by Name, with whom I was intimately acquainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond we were of Argument, & very desirous of confuting one another. Which disputacious Turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad Habit, making People often extreamly disagreable in Company, by the Contradiction that is necessary to bring it into Practice, & thence, besides souring & spoiling the Conversation, is productive of Disgusts & perhaps Enmities where you may have occasion for Friendship. I had caught it by reading my Father’s Books of Dispute about Religion. Persons of good Sense, I have since observ’d, seldom fall into it, except Lawyers, University Men, and Men of all Sorts that have been bred at Edinborough. A Question was once some how or other started between Collins & me, of the Propriety of educating the Female Sex in Learning, & their Abilities for Study. He was of Opinion that it was improper; & that they were naturally unequal to it. I took the contrary Side, perhaps a little for Dispute sake. He was naturally more eloquent, had a ready Plenty of Words, and sometimes as I thought bore me down more by his Fluency than by the Strength of his Reasons. As we parted without settling the Point, & were not to see one another again for some time, I sat down to put my Arguments in Writing, which I copied fair & sent to him. He answer’d & I reply’d. Three or four Letters of a Side had pass’d, when my Father happen’d to find my Papers, and read them. Without entring into the Discussion, he took occasion to talk to me about the Manner of my Writing, observ’d that tho’ I had the Advantage of my Antagonist in correct Spelling & pointing (which I ow’d to the Printing House) I fell far short in elegance of Expression, in Method and in Perspicuity, of which he convinc’d me by several Instances. I saw the Justice of his Remarks, & thence grew more attentive to the Manner in Writing, and determin’d to endeavour at Improvement.-

About this time I met with an odd Volume of the Spectator. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the Writing excellent, & wish’d if possible to imitate it. With that View, I took some of the Papers, & making short Hints of the Sentiment in each Sentence, laid them by a few Days, and then without looking at the Book, try’d to compleat the Papers again, by expressing each hinted Sentiment at length & as fully as it had been express’d before, in any suitable Words that should come to hand.

Then I compar’d my Spectator with the Original, discover’d some of my Faults & corrected them. But I found I wanted a Stock of Words or a Readiness in recollecting & using them, which I thought I should have acquir’d before that time, if I had gone on making Verses, since the continual Occasion for Words of the same Import but of different Length, to suit the Measure, or of different Sound for the Rhyme, would have laid me under a constant Necessity of searching for Variety, and also have tended to fix that Variety in my Mind, & make me Master of it. Therefore I took some of the Tales & turn’d them into Verse: And after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the Prose, turn’d them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my Collections of Hints into Confusion, and after some Weeks, endeavour’d to reduce them into the best Order, before I began to form the full Sentences & compleat the Paper. This was to teach me Method in the Arrangement of Thoughts. By comparing my Work afterwards with the original, I discover’d many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the Pleasure of Fancying that in certain Particulars of small Import, I had been lucky enough to improve the Method or the Language and this encourag’d me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English Writer, of which I was extreamly ambitious.

My Time for these Exercises & for Reading, was at Night after Work, or before Work began in the Morning; or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the Printing House alone, evading as much as I could the common Attendance on publick Worship, which my Father used to exact of me when I was under his Care:- And which indeed I still thought a Duty; tho’ I could not, as it seemed to me, afford the Time to practise it.

When about 16 Years of Age, I happen’d to meet with a Book written by one Tryon, recommending a Vegetable Diet. I determined to go into it. My Brother being yet unmarried, did not keep House, but boarded himself & his Apprentices in another Family. My refusing to eat Flesh occasioned an Inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my singularity. I made my self acquainted with Tryon’s Manner of preparing some of his Dishes, such as Boiling Potatoes, or Rice, making Hasty Pudding, & a few others, and then propos’d to my Brother, that if he would give me Weekly half the Money he paid for my Board, I would board my self. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I could save half what he paid me. This was an additional Fund for buying Books: But I had another Advantage in it. My Brother and the rest going from the Printing House to their Meals, I remain’d there alone, and dispatching presently my light Repast, (which often was no more than a Bisket or a Slice of Bread, a Handful of Raisins or a Tart from the Pastry Cook’s, and a Glass of Water) had the rest of the Time till their Return, for Study, in which I made the greater Progress from that greater Clearness of Head & quicker Apprehension which usually attend Temperance in Eating & Drinking. And now it was that being on some Occasion made asham’d of my Ignorance in Figures, which I had twice fail’d in learning when at School, I took Cocker’s Book of Arithmetick, & went thro’ the whole by my self with great Ease.- I also read Seller’s & Sturmy’s Books of Navigation, & became acquainted with the little Geometry they contain, but never proceeded far in that Science.- And I read about this Time Locke on Human Understanding and the Art of Thinking by Messrs du Port Royal.

While I was intent on improving my Language, I met with an English Grammar (I think it was Greenwood’s) at the End of which there were two little Sketches of the Arts of Rhetoric and Logic, the latter finishing with a Specimen of a Dispute in the Socratic Method. And soon after I procur’d Xenophon’s Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there are many Instances of the same Method. I was charm’d with it, adopted it, dropt my abrupt Contradiction, and positive Argumentation, and put on the humble Enquirer & Doubter. And being then, from reading Shaftsbury & Collins, become a real Doubter in many Points of our Religious Doctrine, I found this Method safest for my self & very embarrassing to those against whom I used it, therefore I took a Delight in it, practis’d it continually & grew very artful & expert in drawing People even of superior Knowledge into Concessions the Consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in Difficulties out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining Victories that neither my self nor my Cause always deserved.- I continu’d this Method some few Years, but gradually left it, retaining only the Habit of expressing my self in Terms of modest Diffidence, never using when I advance any thing that may possibly be disputed, the Words, Certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the Air of Positiveness to an Opinion; but rather say, I conceive, or I apprehend a Thing to be so or so, It appears to me, or I should think it so or so for such & such Reasons, or I imagine it to be so, or it is so if I am not mistaken. - This Habit I believe has been of great Advantage to me, when I have had occasion to inculcate my Opinions & persuade Men into Measures that I have been from time to time engag’d in promoting.- And as the chief Ends of Conversation are to inform, or to be

informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well meaning sensible Men would not lessen their Power of doing Good by a Positive assuming Manner that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create Opposition, and to defeat every one of those Purposes for which Speech was given us, to wit, giving or receiving Information, or Pleasure: For If you would

inform, a positive dogmatical Manner in advancing your Sentiments, may provoke Contradiction & prevent a candid Attention. If you wish Information & Improvement from the Knowledge of others and yet at the same time express your self as firmly fix’d in your present Opinions, modest sensible Men, who do not love Disputation, will probably leave you undisturb’d in the Possession of your Error; and by such a Manner you can seldom hope to recommend your self in pleasing your Hearers, or to persuade those whose Concurrence you desire.- Pope says, judiciously,

Men should be taught as if you taught them not,

And things unknown propos’d as things forgot,-

farther recommending it to us,

To speak tho’ sure, with seeming Diffidence.

And he might have couple’d with this Line that which he has coupled with another, I think less properly,

For want of Modesty is want of Sense.

If you ask why less properly, I must repeat the Lines;

"Immodest Words admit of no Defence;

"For Want of Modesty is Want of Sense."

Now is not Want of Sense, (where a Man is so unfortunate as to want it) some Apology for his Want of Modesty? and would not the Lines stand more justly thus?

Immodest Words admit but this Defence,

That Want of Modesty is Want of Sense.

This however I should submit to better Judgments.-

My Brother had in 1720 or 21, begun to print a Newspaper. It was the second that appear’d in America, & was called The New England Courant. The only one before it, was the Boston News Letter. I remember his being dissuaded by some of his Friends from the Undertaking, as not likely to succeed, one Newspaper being in their Judgment enough for America.- At this time 1771 there are not less than five & twenty.- He went on however with the Undertaking, and after having work’d in composing the Types & printing off the Sheets I was employ’d to carry the Papers thro’ the Streets to the Customers.- He had some ingenious Men among his Friends who amus’d themselves by writing little Pieces for this Paper, which gain’d it Credit, & made it more in Demand; and these Gentlemen often visited us.- Hearing their Conversations, and their Accounts of the Approbation their Papers were receiv’d with, I was excited to try my Hand among them. But being still a Boy, & suspecting that my Brother would object to printing any Thing of mine in his Paper if he knew it to be mine, I contriv’d to disguise my Hand, & writing an anonymous Paper I put it in at Night under the Door of the Printing House. It was found in the Morning & communicated to his Writing Friends when they call’d in as Usual. They read it, commented on it in my Hearing, and I had the exquisite Pleasure, of finding it met with their Approbation, and that in their different Guesses at the Author none were named but Men of some Character among us for Learning & Ingenuity.- I suppose now that I was rather lucky in my Judges: And that perhaps they were not really so very good ones as I then esteem’d them. Encourag’d however by this, I wrote and convey’d in the same Way to the Press several more Papers, which were equally approv’d, and I kept my Secret till my small Fund of Sense for such Performances was pretty well exhausted, & then I discovered it; when I began to be considered a little more by my Brother’s Acquaintance, and in a manner that did not quite please him, as he thought, probably with reason, that it tended to make me too vain. And perhaps this might be one Occasion of the Differences that we began to have about this Time. Tho’ a Brother, he considered himself as my Master, & me as his Apprentice; and accordingly expected the same Services from me as he would from another; while I thought he demean’d me too much in some he requir’d of me, who from a Brother expected more Indulgence. Our Disputes were often brought before our Father, and I fancy I was either generally in the right, or else a better Pleader, because the Judgment was generally in my favour: But my Brother was passionate & had often beaten me, which I took extreamly amiss; *004 and thinking my Apprenticeship very tedious, I was continually wishing for some Opportunity of shortening it, which at length offered in a manner unexpected.

One of the Pieces in our News-Paper, on some political Point which I have now forgotten, gave Offence to the Assembly. He was taken up, censur’d and imprison’d for a Month by the Speaker’s Warrant, I suppose because he would not discover his Author. I too was taken up & examin’d before the Council; but tho’ I did not give them any Satisfaction, they contented themselves with admonishing me, and dismiss’d me; considering me perhaps as an Apprentice who was bound to keep his Master’s Secrets. During my Brother’s Confinement, which I resented a good deal, notwithstanding our private Differences, I had the Management of the Paper, and I made bold to give our Rulers some Rubs in it, which my Brother took very kindly, while others began to consider me in an unfavourable Light, as a young Genius that had a Turn for Libelling & Satyr. My Brother’s Discharge was accompany’d with an Order of the House, (a very odd one) that James Franklin should no longer print the Paper called the New England Courant. There was a Consultation held in our Printing House among his Friends what he should do in this Case. Some propos’d to evade the Order by changing the Name of the Paper; but my Brother seeing Inconveniences in that, it was finally concluded on as a better Way, to let it be printed for the future under the Name of Benjamin Franklin. And to avoid the Censure of the Assembly that might fall on him, as still printing it by his Apprentice, the Contrivance was, that my old Indenture should be return’d to me with a full Discharge on the Back of it, to be shown on Occasion; but to secure to him the Benefit of my Service I was to sign new Indentures for the Remainder of the Term, which were to be kept private. A very flimsy Scheme it was, but however it was immediately executed, and the Paper went on accordingly under my Name for several Months. At length a fresh Difference arising between my Brother and me, I took upon me to assert my Freedom, presuming that he would not venture to produce the new Indentures. It was not fair in me to take this Advantage, and this I therefore reckon one of the first Errata of my Life: But the Unfairness of it weigh’d little with me, when under the Impressions of Resentment, for the Blows his Passion too often urg’d him to bestow upon me. Tho’ He was otherwise not an ill-natur’d Man: Perhaps I was too saucy & provoking.-

When he found I would leave him, he took care to prevent my getting Employment in any other Printing-House of the Town, by going round & speaking to every Master, who accordingly refus’d to give me Work. I then thought of going to New York as the nearest Place where there was a Printer: and I was the rather inclin’d to leave Boston, when I reflected that I had already made my self a little obnoxious, to the governing Party; & from the arbitrary Proceedings of the Assembly in my Brother’s Case it was likely I might if I stay’d soon bring my self into Scrapes; and farther that my indiscrete Disputations about Religion began to make me pointed at with Horror by good People, as an Infidel or Atheist; I determin’d on the Point: but my Father now siding with my Brother, I was sensible that if I attempted to go openly, Means would be used to prevent me. My Friend Collins therefore undertook to manage a little for me. He agreed with the Captain of a New York Sloop for my Passage, under the Notion of my being a young Acquaintance of his that had got a naughty Girl with Child, whose Friends would compel me to marry her, and therefore I could not appear or come away publickly. So I sold some of my Books to raise a little Money, Was taken on board privately, and as we had a fair Wind, in three Days I found my self in New York near 300 Miles from home, a Boy of but 17, without the least Recommendation to or Knowledge of any Person in the Place, and with very little Money in my Pocket.-

My Inclinations for the Sea, were by this time worne out, or I might now have gratify’d them.- But having a Trade, & supposing my self a pretty good Workman, I offer’d my Service to the Printer of the Place, old Mr William Bradford.- He could give me no Employment, having little to do, and Help enough already: But, says he, my Son at Philadelphia has lately lost his principal Hand, Aquila Rose, by Death. If you go thither I believe he may employ you.- Philadelphia was 100 Miles farther. I set out, however, in a Boat for Amboy; leaving my Chest and Things to follow me round by Sea. In crossing the Bay we met with a Squall that tore our rotten Sails to pieces, prevented our getting into the Kill, and drove us upon Long Island. In our Way a drunken Dutchman, who was a Passenger too, fell over board; when he was sinking I reach’d thro’ the Water to his shock Pate & drew him up so that we got him in again.- His Ducking sober’d him a little, & he went to sleep, taking first out of his Pocket a Book which he desir’d I would dry for him. It prov’d to be my old favourite Author Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in Dutch, finely printed on good Paper with copper Cuts, a Dress better than I had ever seen it wear in its own Language. I have since found that it has been translated into most of the Languages of Europe, and suppose it has been more generally read than any other Book except perhaps the Bible.- Honest John was the first that I know of who mix’d Narration & Dialogue, a Method of Writing very engaging to the Reader, who in the most interesting Parts finds himself as it were brought into the Company, & present at the Discourse. De foe in his Cruso, his Moll Flanders, Religious Courtship, Family Instructor, & other Pieces, has imitated it with Success. And Richardson has done the same in his Pamela, &c.-

When we drew near the Island we found it was at a Place where there could be no Landing, there being a great Surff on the stony Beach. So we dropt Anchor & swung round towards the Shore. Some People came down to the Water Edge & hallow’d to us, as we did to them. But the Wind was so high & the Surff so loud, that we could not hear so as to understand each other. There were Canoes on the Shore, & we made Signs & hallow’d that they should fetch us, but they either did not understand us, or thought it impracticable. So they went away, and Night coming on, we had no Remedy but to wait till the Wind should abate, and in the mean time the Boatman & I concluded to sleep if we could, and so crouded into the Scuttle with the Dutchman who was still wet, and the Spray beating over the Head of our Boat, leak’d thro’ to us, so that we were soon almost as wet as he. In this Manner we lay all Night with very little Rest. But the Wind abating the next Day, we made a Shift to reach Amboy before Night, having been 30 Hours on the Water without Victuals, or any Drink but a Bottle of filthy Rum:- The Water we sail’d on being salt.-

In the Evening I found my self very feverish, & went ill to Bed. But having read somewhere that cold Water drank plentifully was good for a Fever, I follow’d the Prescription, sweat plentifully most of the Night, my Fever left me, and in the Morning crossing the Ferry, proceeded on my Journey, on foot, having 50 Miles to Burlington, where I was told I should find Boats that would carry me the rest of the Way to Philadelphia.

It rain’d very hard all the Day, I was thoroughly soak’d, and by Noon a good deal tir’d, so I stopt at a poor Inn, where I staid all Night, beginning now to wish I had never left home. I cut so miserable a Figure too, that I found by the Questions ask’d me I was suspected to be some runaway Servant, and in danger of being taken up on that Suspicion.- However I proceeded the next Day, and got in the Evening to an Inn within 8 or 10 Miles of Burlington, kept by one Dr Brown.-

He entred into Conversation with me while I took some Refreshment, and finding I had read a little, became very sociable and friendly. Our Acquaintance continu’d as long as he liv’d. He had been, I imagine, an itinerant Doctor, for there was no Town in England, or Country in Europe, of which he could not give a very particular Account. He had some Letters, & was ingenious, but much of an Unbeliever, & wickedly undertook some Years after to travesty the Bible in doggrel Verse as Cotton had done Virgil.- By this means he set many of the Facts in a very ridiculous Light, & might have hurt weak minds if his Work had been publish’d:- but it never was.- At his House I lay that Night, and the next Morning reach’d Burlington.- But had the Mortification to find that the regular Boats were gone, a little before my coming, and no other expected to go till Tuesday, this being Saturday. Wherefore I return’d to an old Woman in the Town of whom I had bought Gingerbread to eat on the Water, & ask’d her Advice; she invited me to lodge at her House till a Passage by Water should offer; & being tired with my foot Travelling, I accepted the Invitation. She understanding I was a Printer, would have had me stay at that Town & follow my Business, being ignorant of the Stock necessary to begin with. She was very hospitable, gave me a Dinner of Ox Cheek with great Goodwill, accepting only of a Pot of Ale in return. And I tho’t my self fix’d till Tuesday should come. However walking in the Evening by the Side of the River a Boat came by, which I found was going towards Philadelphia, with several People in her. They took me in, and as there was no Wind, we row’d all the Way; and about Midnight not having yet seen the City, some of the Company were confident we must have pass’d it, and would row no farther, the others knew not where we were, so we put towards the Shore, got into a Creek, landed near an old Fence with the Rails of which we made a Fire, the Night being cold, in October, and there we remain’d till Daylight. Then one of the Company knew the Place to be Cooper’s Creek a little above Philadelphia, which we saw as soon as we got out of the Creek, and arriv’d there about 8 or 9 a Clock, on the Sunday morning, and landed at the Market street Wharff.-

I have been the more particular in this Description of my Journey, & shall be so of my first Entry into that City, that you may in your Mind compare such unlikely Beginning with the Figure I have since made there. I was in my working Dress, my best Cloaths being to come round by Sea. I was dirty from my Journey; my Pockets were stuff’d out with Shirts & Stockings; I knew no Soul, nor where to look for Lodging. I was fatigu’d with Travelling, Rowing & Want of Rest. I was very hungry, and my whole Stock of Cash consisted of a Dutch Dollar and about a Shilling in Copper. The latter I gave the People of the Boat for my Passage, who at first refus’d it on Account of my Rowing; but I insisted on their taking it, a Man being sometimes more generous when he has but a little Money than when he has plenty, perhaps thro’ Fear of being thought to have but little. Then I walk’d up the Street, gazing about, till near the Market House I met a Boy with Bread. I had made many a Meal on Bread, & inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the Baker’s he directed me to in second Street; and ask’d for Bisket, intending such as we had in Boston, but they it seems were not made in Philadelphia, then I ask’d for a threepenny Loaf, and was told they had none such: so not considering or knowing the Difference of Money & the greater Cheapness nor the Names of his Bread, I had him give me three pennyworth of any sort. He gave me accordingly three great Puffy Rolls. I was surpriz’d at the Quantity, but took it, and having no Room in my Pockets, walk’d off, with a Roll under each Arm, & eating the other. Thus I went up Market Street as far as fourth Street, passing by the Door of Mr Read, my future Wife’s Father, when she standing at the Door saw me, & thought I made as I certainly did a most awkward ridiculous Appearance. Then I turn’d and went down Chestnut Street and part of Walnut Street, eating my Roll all the Way, and coming round found my self again at Market street Wharff, near the Boat I came in, to which I went for a Draught of the River Water, and being fill’d with one of my Rolls, gave the other two to a Woman & her Child that came down the River in the Boat with us and were waiting to go farther. Thus refresh’d I walk’d again up the Street, which by this time had many clean dress’d People in it who were all walking the same Way; I join’d them, and thereby was led into the great Meeting House of the Quakers near the Market. I sat down among them, and after looking round a while & hearing nothing said, being very drowzy thro’ Labour & want of Rest the preceding Night, I fell fast asleep, and continu’d so till the Meeting broke up, when one was kind enough to rouse me. This was therefore the first House I was in or slept in, in Philadelphia.-

Walking again down towards the River, & looking in the Faces of People, I met a young Quaker Man whose Countenance I lik’d, and accosting him requested he would tell me where a Stranger could get Lodging. We were then near the Sign of the Three Mariners. Here, says he, is one Place that entertains Strangers, but it is not a reputable House; if thee wilt walk with me, I’ll show thee a better. He brought me to the Crooked Billet in Water-Street. Here I got a Dinner. And while I was eating it, several sly Questions were ask’d me, as it seem’d to be suspected from my youth & Appearance, that I might be some Runaway. After Dinner my Sleepiness return’d: and being shown to a Bed, I lay down without undressing, and slept till Six in the Evening; was call’d to Supper; went to Bed again very early and slept soundly till the next Morning. Then I made my self as tidy as I could, and went to Andrew Bradford the Printer’s.- I found in the Shop the old Man his Father, whom I had seen at New York, and who travelling on horse back had got to Philadelphia before me.- He introduc’d me to his Son, who receiv’d me civilly, gave me a Breakfast, but told me he did not at present want a Hand, being lately supply’d with one. But there was another Printer in town lately set up, one Keimer, who perhaps might employ me; if not, I should be welcome to lodge at his House, & he would give me a little Work to do now & then till fuller Business should offer.

The old Gentleman said, he would go with me to the new Printer: And when we found him, Neighbour, says Bradford, I have brought to see you a young Man of your Business, perhaps you may want such a One. He ask’d me a few Questions, put a Composing Stick in my Hand to see how I work’d, and then said he would employ me soon, tho’ he had just then nothing for me to do. And taking old Bradford whom he had never seen before, to be one of the Towns People that had a Good Will for him, enter’d into a Conversation on his present Undertaking & Prospects; while Bradford not discovering that he was the other Printer’s Father; on Keimer’s Saying he expected soon to get the greatest Part of the Business into his own Hands, drew him on by artful Questions and starting little Doubts, to explain all his Views, what Interest he rely’d on, & in what manner he intended to proceed.- I who stood by & heard all, saw immediately that one of them was a crafty old Sophister, and the other a mere Novice. Bradford left me with Keimer, who was greatly surpriz’d when I told him who the old Man was.

Keimer’s Printing House I found, consisted of an old shatter’d Press, and one small worn-out Fount of English, which he was then using himself, composing in it an Elegy on Aquila Rose before-mentioned, an ingenious young Man of excellent Character much respected in the Town, Clerk of the Assembly, & a pretty Poet. Keimer made Verses, too, but very indifferently.- He could not be said to write them, for his Manner was to compose them in the Types directly out of his Head; so there being no Copy, but one Pair of Cases, and the Elegy likely to require all the Letter, no one could help him.- I endeavour’d to put his Press (which he had not yet us’d, & of which he understood nothing) into Order fit to be work’d with; & promising to come & print off his Elegy as soon as he should have got it ready, I return’d to Bradford’s who gave me a little Job to do for the present, & there I lodged & dieted. A few Days after Keimer sent for me to print off the Elegy. And now he had got another Pair of Cases, and a Pamphlet to reprint, on which he set me to work.-

These two Printers I found poorly qualified for their Business. Bradford had not been bred to it, & was very illiterate; and Keimer tho’ something of a Scholar, was a mere Compositor, knowing nothing of Presswork. He had been one of the French Prophets and could act their enthusiastic Agitations. At this time he did not profess any particular Religion, but something of all on occasion; was very ignorant of the World, & had, as I afterwards found, a good deal of the Knave in his Composition. He did not like my Lodging at Bradford’s while I work’d with him. He had a House indeed, but without Furniture, so he could not lodge me: But he got me a Lodging at Mr Read’s before- mentioned, who was the Owner of his House. And my Chest & Clothes being come by this time, I made rather a more respectable Appearance in the Eyes of Miss Read, than I had done when she first happen’d to see me eating my Roll in the Street.-

I began now to have some Acquaintance among the young People of the Town, that were Lovers of Reading with whom I spent my Evenings very pleasantly and gaining Money by my Industry & Frugality, I lived very agreably, forgetting Boston as much as I could, and not desiring that any there should know where I resided except my Friend Collins who was in my Secret, & kept it when I wrote to him.- At length an Incident happened that sent me back again much sooner than I had intended.-

I had a Brother-in-law, Robert Holmes, Master of a Sloop, that traded between Boston and Delaware. He being at New Castle 40 Miles below Philadelphia, heard there of me, and wrote me a Letter, mentioning the Concern of my Friends in Boston at my abrupt Departure, assuring me of their Goodwill to me, and that every thing would be accommodated to my Mind if I would return, to which he exhorted me very earnestly.- I wrote an Answer to his Letter, thank’d him for his Advice, but stated my Reasons for quitting Boston fully, & in such a Light as to convince him I was not so wrong as he had apprehended.- Sir William Keith Governor of the Province, was then at New Castle, and Capt. Holmes happening to be in Company with him when my Letter came to hand, spoke to him of me, and show’d him the Letter. The Governor read it, and seem’d surpriz’d when he was told my Age. He said I appear’d a young Man of promising Parts, and therefore should be encouraged: The Printers at Philadelphia were wretched ones, and if I would set up there, he made no doubt I should succeed; for his Part, he would procure me the publick Business, & do me every other Service in his Power. This my Brother-in-Law afterwards told me in Boston. But I knew as yet nothing of it; when one Day Keimer and I being at Work together near the Window, we saw the Governor and another Gentleman (which prov’d to be Col. French, of New Castle) finely dress’d, come directly across the Street to our House, & heard them at the Door. Keimer ran down immediately, thinking it a Visit to him. But the Governor enquir’d for me, came up, & with a Condescension & Politeness I had been quite unus’d to, made me many Compliments, desired to be acquainted with me, blam’d me kindly for not having made my self known to him when I first came to the Place, and would have me away with him to the Tavern where he was going with Col. French to taste as he said some excellent Madeira. I was not a little surpriz’d, and Keimer star’d like a Pig poison’d. I went however with the Governor & Col. French, to a Tavern the Corner of Third Street, and over the Madeira he propos’d my Setting up my Business, laid before me the Probabilities of Success, & both he & Col French, assur’d me I should have their Interest & Influence in procuring the Publick Business of both Governments. On my doubting whether my Father would assist me in it, Sir William said he would give me a Letter to him, in which he would state the Advantages,- and he did not doubt of prevailing with him. So it was concluded I should return to Boston in the first Vessel with the Governor’s Letter recommending me to my Father. In the mean time the Intention was to be kept secret, and I went on working with Keimer as usual, the Governor sending for me now & then to dine with him, a very great Honour I thought it, and conversing with me in the most affable, familiar, & friendly manner imaginable. About the End of April 1724 a little Vessel offer’d for Boston. I took Leave of Keimer as going to see my Friends. The Governor gave me an ample Letter, saying many flattering things of me to my Father, and strongly recommending the Project of my setting up at Philadelphia, as a Thing that must make my Fortune.- We struck on a Shoal in going down the Bay & sprung a Leak, we had a blustring time at Sea, and were oblig’d to pump almost continually, at which I took my Turn.- We arriv’d safe however at Boston in about a Fortnight.- I had been absent Seven Months and my Friends had heard nothing of me, for my Br. Holmes was not yet return’d; and had not written about me. My unexpected Appearance surpriz’d the Family; all were however very glad to see me and made me Welcome, except my Brother. I went to see him at his Printing-House: I was better dress’d than ever while in his Service, having a genteel new Suit from Head to foot, a Watch, and my Pockets lin’d with near Five Pounds Sterling in Silver. He receiv’d me not very frankly, look’d me all over, and turn’d to his Work again. The Journey-Men were inquisitive where I had been, what sort of a Country it was, and how I lik’d it? I prais’d it much, & the happy Life I led in it; expressing strongly my Intention of returning to it; and one of them asking what kind of Money we had there, I produc’d a handful of Silver, and spread it before them, which was a kind of Raree-Show they had not been us’d to, Paper being the Money of Boston. Then I took an Opportunity of letting them see my Watch: and lastly, (my Brother still grum & sullen) I gave them a Piece of Eight to drink & took my Leave.- This Visit of mine offended him extreamly. For when my Mother some time after spoke to him of a Reconciliation, & of her Wishes to see us on good Terms together, & that we might live for the future as Brothers, he said, I had insulted him in such a Manner before his People that he could never forget or forgive it.- In this however he was mistaken.-

My Father receiv’d the Governor’s Letter with some apparent Surprize; but said little of it to me for some Days; when Capt. Homes returning, he show’d it to him, ask’d if he knew Keith, and what kind of a Man he was: Adding his Opinion that he must be of small Discretion, to think of setting a Boy up in Business who wanted yet 3 Years of being at Man’s Estate. Homes said what he could in favor of the Project; but my Father was clear in the Impropriety of it; and at last gave a flat Denial to it. Then he wrote a civil Letter to Sir William thanking him for the Patronage he had so kindly offered me, but declining to assist me as yet in Setting up, I being in his Opinion too young to be trusted with the Management of a Business so important; & for which the Preparation must be so expensive.-

My Friend & Companion Collins, who was a Clerk at the Post-Office, pleas’d with the Account I gave him of my new Country, determin’d to go thither also:- And while I waited for my Fathers Determination, he set out before me by Land to Rhodeisland, leaving his Books which were a pretty Collection of Mathematicks & Natural Philosophy, to come with mine & me to New York where he propos’d to wait for me. My Father, tho’ he did not approve Sir William’s Proposition was yet pleas’d that I had been able to obtain so advantageous a Character from a Person of such Note where I had resided, and that I had been so industrious & careful as to equip my self so handsomely in so short a time: therefore seeing no Prospect of an Accommodation between my Brother & me, he gave his Consent to my Returning again to Philadelphia, advis’d me to behave respectfully to the People there, endeavour to obtain the general Esteem, & avoid lampooning & libelling to which he thought I had too much Inclination;- telling me, that by steady Industry and a prudent Parsimony, I might save enough by the time I was One and Twenty to set me up, & that if I came near the Matter he would help me out with the Rest.- This was all I could obtain, except some small Gifts as Tokens of his & my Mother’s Love, when I embark’d again for New-York, now with their Approbation & their Blessing.-

The Sloop putting in at Newport, Rhodeisland, I visited my Brother John, who had been married & settled there some Years. He received me very affectionately, for he always lov’d me.- A Friend of his, one Vernon, having some Money due to him in Pensilvania, about 35 Pounds Currency, desired I would receive it for him, and keep it till I had his Directions what to remit it in. Accordingly he gave me an Order.- This afterwards occasion’d me a good deal of Uneasiness.- At Newport we took in a Number of Passengers for New York: Among which were two young Women, Companions, and a grave, sensible Matron-like Quaker-Woman with her Attendants.- I had shown an obliging Readiness to do her some little Services which impress’d her I suppose with a degree of Good-will towards me.- Therefore when she saw a daily growing Familiarity between me & the two Young Women, which they appear’d to encourage, she took me aside & said, Young Man, I am concern’d for thee, as thou has no Friend with thee, and seems not to know much of the World, or of the Snares Youth is expos’d to; depend upon it those are very bad Women, I can see it in all their Actions, and if thee art not upon thy Guard, they will draw thee into some Danger: they are Strangers to thee,- and I advise thee in a friendly Concern for thy Welfare, to have no Acquaintance with them.- As I seem’d at first not to think so ill of them as she did, she mention’d some Things she had observ’d & heard that had escap’d my Notice; but now convinc’d me she was right. I thank’d her for her kind Advice, and promis’d to follow it.- When we arriv’d at New York, they told me where they liv’d, & invited me to come and see them: but I avoided it. And it was well I did: For the next Day, the Captain miss’d a Silver Spoon & some other Things that had been taken out of his Cabbin, and knowing that these were a Couple of Strumpets, he got a Warrant to search their Lodgings, found the stolen Goods, and had the Thieves punish’d.- So tho’ we had escap’d a sunken Rock which we scrap’d upon in the Passage, I thought this Escape of rather more Importance to me. At New York I found my Friend Collins, who had arriv’d there some Time before me. We had been intimate from Children, and had read the same Books together. But he had the Advantage of more time for Reading, & Studying and a wonderful Genius for Mathematical Learning in which he far outstript me. While I liv’d in Boston most of my Hours of Leisure for Conversation were spent with him, & he continu’d a sober as well as an industrious Lad; was much respected for his Learning by several of the Clergy & other Gentlemen, & seem’d to promise making a good Figure in Life: but during my Absence he had acquir’d a Habit of Sotting with Brandy; and I found by his own Account & what I heard from others, that he had been drunk every day since his Arrival at New York, & behav’d very oddly. He had gam’d too and lost his Money, so that I was oblig’d to discharge his Lodgings, & defray his Expences to and at Philadelphia: Which prov’d extreamly inconvenient to me.- The then Governor of New York, Burnet, Son of Bishop Burnet hearing from the Captain that a young Man, one of his Passengers, had a great many Books, desired he would bring me to see him. I waited upon him accordingly, and should have taken Collins with me but that he was not sober. The Governor treated me with greet Civility, show’d me his Library, which was a very large one, & we had a good deal of Conversation about Books & Authors. This was the second Governor who had done me the Honour to take Notice of me, which to a poor Boy like me was very pleasing.- We proceeded to Philadelphia. I received on the Way Vernon’s Money, without which we could hardly have finish’d our Journey.- Collins wish’d to be employ’d in some Counting House; but whether they discover’d his Dramming by his Breath, or by his Behaviour, tho’ he had some Recommendations, he met with no Success in any Application, and continu’d Lodging & Boarding at the same House with me & at my Expence. Knowing I had that Money of Vernon’s he was continually borrowing of me, still promising Repayment as soon as he should be in Business. At length he had got so much of it, that I was distress’d to think what I should do, in case of being call’d on to remit it.- His Drinking continu’d, about which we sometimes quarrel’d, for when a little intoxicated he was very fractious. Once in a Boat on the Delaware with some other young Men, he refused to row in his Turn: I will be row’d home, says he. We will not row you, says I. You must says he, or stay all Night on the Water, just as you please. The others said, Let us row; What signifies it? But my Mind being soured with his other Conduct, I continu’d to refuse. So he swore he would make me row, or throw me overboard; and coming along stepping on the Thwarts towards me, when he came up & struck at me, I clapt my Hand under his Crutch, and rising pitch’d him head-foremost into the River. I knew he was a good Swimmer, and so was under little Concern about him; but before he could get round to lay hold of the Boat, we had with a few Strokes pull’d her out of his Reach.- And ever when he drew near the Boat, we ask’d if he would row, striking a few Strokes to slide her away from him.- He was ready to die with Vexation, & obstinately would not promise to row; however seeing him at last beginning to tire, we lifted him in; and brought him home dripping wet in the Evening. We hardly exchang’d a civil Word afterwards; and a West India Captain who had a Commission to procure a Tutor for the Sons of a Gentleman at Barbadoes, happening to meet with him, agreed to carry him thither. He left me then, promising to remit me the first Money he should receive in order to discharge the Debt. But I never heard of him after.- The Breaking into this Money of Vernon’s was one of the first great Errata of my Life. And this Affair show’d that my Father was not much out in his Judgment when he suppos’d me too Young to manage Business of Importance. But Sir William, on reading his Letter, said he was too prudent. There was great Difference in Persons, and Discretion did not always accompany Years, nor was Youth always without it. And since he will not set you up, says he, I will do it my self. Give me an Inventory of the Things necessary to be had from England, and I will send for them. You shall repay me when you are able; I am resolv’d to have a good Printer here, and I am sure you must succeed. This was spoken with such an Appearance of Cordiality, that I had not the least doubt of his meaning what he said.- I had hitherto kept the Proposition of my Setting up a Secret in Philadelphia, & I still kept it. Had it been known that I depended on the Governor, probably some Friend that knew him better would have advis’d me not to rely on him, as I afterwards heard it as his known Character to be liberal of Promises which he never meant to keep.- Yet unsolicited as he was by me, how ould I think his generous Offers insincere? I believ’d him one of the best Men in the World.

I presented him an Inventory of a little Printing House, amounting by my Computation to about 100L Sterling. He lik’d it, but ask’d me if my being on the Spot in England to chuse the Types & see that every thing was good of the kind, might not be of some Advantage. Then, says he, when there, you may make Acquaintances & establish Correspondencies in the Bookselling, & Stationary Way. I agreed that this might be advantageous. Then says he, get yourself ready to go with Annis; which was the annual Ship, and the only one at that Time usually passing between London and Philadelphia. But it would be some Months before Annis sail’d, so I continu’d working with Keimer, fretting about the Money Collins had got from me, and in daily Apprehensions of being call’d upon by Vernon, which however did not happen for some Years after.-

I believe I have omitted mentioning that in my first Voyage from Boston, being becalm’d off Block Island, our People set about catching Cod & hawl’d up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my Resolution of not eating animal Food; and on this Occasion, I consider’d with my Master Tryon, the taking every Fish as a kind of unprovok’d Murder, since none of them had or ever could do us any Injury that might justify the Slaughter.- All this seem’d very reasonable.- But I had formerly been a great Lover of Fish, & when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between Principle & Inclination: till I recollected, that when the Fish were opened, I saw smaller Fish taken out of their Stomachs:- Then, thought I, if you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you. So I din’d upon Cod very heartily and continu’d to eat with other People, returning only now & then occasionally to a vegetable Diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for every thing one has a mind to do.-

Keimer & I liv’d on a pretty good familiar Footing & agreed tolerably well: for he suspected nothing of my Setting up. He retain’d a great deal of his old Enthusiasms, and lov’d an Argumentation. We therefore had many Disputations. I us’d to work him so with my Socratic Method, and had trapann’d him so often by Questions apparently so distant from any Point we had in hand, and yet by degrees led to the Point, and brought him into Difficulties & Contradictions, that at last he grew ridiculously cautious, and would hardly answer me the most common Question, without asking first, What do you intend to infer from that? However it gave him so high an Opinion of my Abilities in the Confuting Way, that he seriously propos’d my being his Colleague in a Project he had of setting up a new Sect. He was to preach the Doctrines, and I was to confound all Opponents. When he came to explain with me upon the Doctrines, I found several Conundrums which I objected to, unless I might have my Way a little too, and introduce some of mine. Keimer wore his Beard at full Length, because somewhere in the Mosaic Law it is said, thou shalt not mar the Corners of thy Beard. He likewise kept the seventh day Sabbath; and these two Points wer Essentials with him.- I dislik’d both, but agreed to admit them upon Condition of his adopting the Doctrine of using no animal Food. I doubt, says he, my Constitution will not bear that. I assur’d him it would, & that he would be the better for it. He was usually a great Glutton, and I promis’d my self some Diversion in half-starving him. He agreed to try the Practice if I would keep him Company. I did so and we held it for three Months. We had our Victuals dress’d and brought to us regularly by a Woman in the Neighbourhood, who had from me a List of 40 Dishes to be prepar’d for us at different times, in all which there was neither Fish Flesh nor Fowl, and the Whim suited me the better at this time from the Cheapness of it, not costing us above 18d Sterling each, per Week.- I have since kept several Lents most strictly, Leaving the common Diet for that, and that for the common, abruptly, without the least Inconvenience: So that I think there is little in the Advice of making those Changes by easy Gradations.- I went on pleasantly, but Poor Keimer suffer’d grievously, tir’d of the Project, long’d for the Flesh Pots of Egypt, and order’d a roast Pig; He invited me & two Women Friends to dine with him, but it being brought too soon upon table, he could not resist the Temptation, and ate it all up before we came.-

I had made some Courtship during this time to Miss Read, I had a great Respect & Affection for her, and had some Reason to believe she had the same for me: but as I was about to take a long Voyage, and we were both very young, only a little above 18. it was thought most prudent by her Mother to prevent our going too far at present, as a Marriage if it was to take place would be more convenient after my Return, when I should be as I expected set up in my Business. Perhaps too she thought my Expectations not so well founded as I imagined them to be.-

My chief Acquaintances at this time were, Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, & James Ralph; All Lovers of Reading. The two first were Clerks to an eminent Scrivener or Conveyancer in the Town, Charles Brogden; the other was Clerk to a Merchant. Watson was a pious sensible young Man, of great Integrity.- The others rather more lax in their Principles of Religion, particularly Ralph, who as well as Collins had been unsettled by me, for which they both made me suffer.- Osborne was sensible, candid, frank, sincere, and affectionate to his Friends; but in literary Matters too fond of Criticising. Ralph, was ingenious, genteel in his Manners, & extreamly eloquent; I think I never knew a prettier Talker.- Both of them great Admirers of Poetry, and began to try their Hands in little Pieces. Many pleasant Walks we four had together, on Sundays into the Woods near Skuylkill, where we read to one another & conferr’d on what we read. Ralph was inclin’d to pursue the Study of Poetry, not doubting but he might become eminent in it and make his Fortune by it, alledging that the best Poets must when they first began to write, make as many Faults as he did.- Osborne dissuaded him, assur’d him he had no Genius for Poetry, & advis’d him to think of nothing beyond the Business he was bred to; that in the mercantile way tho’ he had no Stock, he might by his Diligence & Punctuality recommend himself to Employment as a Factor, and in time acquire wherewith to trade on his own Account. I approv’d the amusing one’s Self with Poetry now & then, so far as to improve one’s Language, but no farther. On this it was propos’d that we should each of us at our next Meeting produce a Piece of our own Composing, in order to improve by our mutual Observations, Criticisms & Corrections. As Language & Expression was what we had in View, we excluded all Considerations of Invention, by agreeing that the Task should be a Version of the 18th Psalm, which describes the Descent of a Deity. When the Time of our Meeting drew nigh, Ralph call’d on me first, & let me know his Piece was ready. I told him I had been busy, & having little Inclination had done nothing.- He then show’d me his Piece for my Opinion; and I much approv’d it, as it appear’d to me to have great Merit. Now, says he, Osborne never will allow the least Merit in any thing of mine, but makes 1000 Criticisms out of mere Envy. He is not so jealous of you. I wish therefore you would take this Piece, & produce it as yours. I will pretend not to have had time, & so produce nothing: We shall then see what he will say to it.- It was agreed, and I immediately transcrib’d it that it might appear in my own hand. We met. Watson’s Performance was read: there were some Beauties in it: but many Defects. Osborne’s was read: It was much better. Ralph did it Justice, remark’d some Faults, but applauded the Beauties. He himself had nothing to produce. I was backward, seem’d desirous of being excus’d, had not had sufficient Time to correct; &c. but no Excuse could be admitted, produce I must. It was read and repeated; Watson and Osborne gave up the Contest; and join’d in applauding it immoderately. Ralph only made some Criticisms & propos’d some Amendments, but I defended my Text. Osborne was against Ralph, & told him he was no better a Critic than Poet; so he dropt the Argument. As they two went home together, Osborne express’d himself still more strongly in favour of what he thought my Production, having restrain’d himself before as he said, lest I should think it Flattery. But who would have imagin’d, says he, that Franklin had been capable of such a Performance; such Painting, such Force! such Fire! he has even improv’d the Original! In his common Conversation, he seems to have no Choice of Words; he hesitates and blunders; and yet, good God, how he writes!- When we next met, Ralph discover’d the Trick we had plaid him, and Osborne was a little laught at. This Transaction fix’d Ralph in his Resolution of becoming a Poet. I did all I could to dissuade him from it, but He continu’d scribbling Verses, till Pope cur’d him.- He became however a pretty good Prose Writer. More of him hereafter. But as I may not have occasion again to mention the other two, I shall just remark here, that Watson died in my Arms a few Years after, much lamented, being the best of our Set. Osborne went to the West Indies, where he became an eminent Lawyer & made Money, but died young. He and I had made a serious Agreement, that the one who happen’d first to die, should if possible make a friendly Visit to the other, and acquaint him how he found things in that separate State. But he never fulfill’d his Promise.

The Governor, seeming to like my Company, had me frequently to his House; & his Setting me up was always mention’d as a fix’d thing. I was to take with me Letters recommendatory to a Number of his Friends, besides the Letter of Credit, to furnish me with the necessary Money for purchasing the Press & Types, Paper, &c. For these Letters I was appointed to call at different times, when they were to be ready, but a future time was still named.- Thus we went on till the Ship whose Departure too had been several times postponed was on the Point of sailing. Then when I call’d to take my Leave & receive the Letters, his Secretary, Dr Bard, came out to me and said the Governor was extreamly busy, in writing, but would be down at Newcastle before the Ship, & there the Letters would be delivered to me.

Ralph, tho’ married & having one Child, had determined to accompany me in this Voyage. It was thought he intended to establish a Correspondence, & obtain Goods to sell on Commission. But I found afterwards, that thro’ some Discontent with his Wife’s Relations, he purposed to leave her on their Hands, & never return again.- Having taken leave of my Friends, & interchang’d some Promises with Miss Read, I left Philadelphia in the Ship, which anchor’d at Newcastle. The Governor was there. But when I went to his Lodging, the Secretary came to me from him with the civillest Message in the World, that he could not then see me being engag’d in Business of the utmost Importance, but should send the Letters to me on board, wish’d me heartily a good Voyage and a speedy Return, &c. I return’d on board, a little puzzled, but still not doubting.-

Mr Andrew Hamilton, a famous Lawyer of Philadelphia, had taken Passage in the same Ship for himself and Son: and with Mr Denham a Quaker Merchant, & Messrs Onion & Russel Masters of an Iron Work in Maryland, had engag’d the Great Cabin; so that Ralph and I were forc’d to take up with a Birth in the Steerage:- And none on board knowing us, were considered as ordinary Persons.- But Mr Hamilton & his Son (it was James, since Governor) return’d from New Castle to Philadelphia, the Father being recall’d by a great Fee to plead for a seized Ship.- And just before we sail’d Col. French coming on board, & showing me great Respect, I was more taken Notice of, and with my Friend Ralph invited by the other Gentlemen to come into the Cabin, there being now Room. Accordingly we remov’d thither.

Understanding that Col. French had brought on board the Governor’s Dispatches, I ask’d the Captain for those Letters that were to be under my Care. He said all were put into the Bag together; and he could not then come at them; but before we landed in England, I should have an Opportunity of picking them out. So I was satisfy’d for the present, and we proceeded on our Voyage. We had a sociable Company in the Cabin, and lived uncommonly well, having the Addition of all Mr Hamilton’s Stores, who had laid in plentifully. In this Passage Mr Denham contracted a Friendship for me that continued during his Life. The Voyage was otherwise not a pleasant one, as we had a great deal of bad Weather.-

When we came into the Channel, the Captain kept his Word with me, & gave me an Opportunity of examining the Bag for the Governor’s Letters. I found none upon which my Name was put, as under my Care; I pick’d out 6 or 7 that by the Handwriting I thought might be the promis’d Letters, especially as one of them was directed to Basket the King’s Printer, and another to some Stationer. We arriv’d in London the 24th of December, 1724.- I waited upon the Stationer who came first in my Way, delivering the Letter as from Gov. Keith. I don’t know such a Person, says he: but opening the Letter, O, this is from Riddlesden; I have lately found him to be a compleat Rascal, and I will have nothing to do with him, nor receive any Letters from him. So putting the Letter into my Hand, he turn’d on his Heel & left me to serve some Customer.- I was surprized to find these were not the Governor’s Letters. And after recollecting and comparing Circumstances, I began to doubt his Sincerity.- I found my Friend Denham, and opened the whole Affair to him. He let me into Keith’s Character, told me there was not the least Probability that he had written any Letters for me, that no one who knew him had the smallest Dependance on him, and he laught at the Notion of the Governor’s giving me a Letter of Credit, having as he said no Credit to give.- On my expressing some Concern about what I should do: He advis’d me to endeavour getting some Employment in the Way of my Business. Among the Printers here, says he, you will improve yourself; and when you return to America, you will set up to greater Advantage.-

We both of us happen’d to know, as well as the Stationer, that Riddlesden the Attorney, was a very Knave. He had half ruin’d Miss Read’s Father by drawing him in to be bound for him. By his Letter it appear’d, there was a secret Scheme on foot to the Prejudice of Hamilton, (Suppos’d to be then coming over with us,) and that Keith was concern’d in it with Riddlesden. Denham, who was a Friend of Hamilton’s, thought he ought to be acquainted with it. So when he arriv’d in England, which was soon after, partly from Resentment & Ill-Will to Keith & Riddlesden, & partly from Good Will to him: I waited on him, and gave him the Letter. He thank’d me cordially, the Information being of Importance to him. And from that time he became my Friend, greatly to my Advantage afterwards on many Occasions.

But what shall we think of a Governor’s playing such pitiful Tricks, & imposing so grossly on a poor ignorant Boy! It was a Habit he had acquired. He wish’d to please every body; and having little to give, he gave Expectations.- He was otherwise an ingenious sensible Man, a pretty good Writer, & a good Governor for the People, tho’ not for his Constituents the Proprietaries, whose Instructions he sometimes disregarded.- Several of our best Laws were of his Planning, and pass’d during his Administration.-

Ralph and I were inseparable Companions. We took Lodgings together in Little Britain at 3s. 6d. per Week, as much as we could then afford.- He found some Relations, but they were poor & unable to assist him. He now let me know his Intentions of remaining in London, and that he never meant to return to Philadelphia- He had brought no Money with him, the whole he could muster having been expended in paying his Passage.- I had 15 Pistoles: So he borrowed occasionally of me, to subsist while he was looking out for Business.- He first endeavoured to get into the Playhouse, believing himself qualify’d for an Actor; but Wilkes, to whom he apply’d, advis’d him candidly not to think of that Employment, as it was impossible he should succeed in it.- Then he propos’d to Roberts, a Publisher in Paternoster Row, to write for him a Weekly Paper like the Spectator, on certain Conditions, which Roberts did not approve. Then he endeavour’d to get Employment as a Hackney Writer to copy for the Stationers & Lawyers about the Temple: but could find no Vacancy.-

I immediately got into Work at Palmer’s then a famous Printing House in Bartholomew Close; and here I continu’d near a Year. I was pretty diligent; but spent with Ralph a good deal of my Earnings in going to Plays & other Places of Amusement. We had together consum’d all my Pistoles, and now just rubb’d on from hand to mouth. He seem’d quite to forget his Wife & Child, and I by degrees my Engagements with Miss Read, to whom I never wrote more than one Letter, & that was to let her know I was not likely soon to return. This was another of the great Errata of my Life, which I should wish to correct if I were to live it over again.- In fact, by our Expences, I was constantly kept unable to pay my Passage.

At Palmer’s I was employ’d in Composing for the second Edition of Woollaston’s Religion of Nature. Some of his Reasonings not appearing to me well-founded, I wrote a little metaphysical Piece, in which I made Remarks on them. It was entitled, A Dissertation an Liberty & Necessity, Pleasure and Pain. - I inscrib’d it to my Friend Ralph.- I printed a small Number. It occasion’d my being more consider’d by Mr Palmer, as a young Man of some Ingenuity, tho’ he seriously expostulated with me upon the Principles of my Pamphlet which to him appear’d abominable. My printing this Pamphlet was another Erratum.

While I lodg’d in Little Britain I made an Acquaintance with one Wilcox a Bookseller, whose Shop was at the next Door. He had an immense Collection of second-hand Books. Circulating Libraries were not then in Use; but we agreed that on certain reasonable Terms which I have now forgotten, I might take, read & return any of his Books. This I esteem’d a great Advantage, & I made as much Use of it as I could.-

My Pamphlet by some means falling into the Hands of one Lyons, a Surgeon, Author of a Book intituled The Infallibility of Human Judgment, it occasioned an Acquaintance between us; he took great Notice of me, call’d on me often, to converse on these Subjects, carried me to the Horns a pale Ale House in __ Lane, Cheapside, and introduc’d me to Dr Mandevile, Author of the Fable of the Bees who had a Club there, of which he was the Soul, being a most facetious entertaining Companion. Lyons too introduc’d me to Dr Pemberton, at Batson’s Coffee House, who promis’d to give me an Opportunity some time or other of seeing Sir Isaac Newton, of which I was extreamly desirous; but this never happened.

I had brought over a few Curiosities among which the principal was a Purse made of the Asbestos, which purifies by Fire. Sir Hans Sloane heard of it, came to see me, and invited me to his House in Bloomsbury Square; where he show’d me all his Curiosities, and persuaded me to let him add that to the Number, for which he paid me handsomely.-

In our House there lodg’d a young Woman; a Millener, who I think had a Shop in the Cloisters. She had been genteelly bred; was sensible & lively, and of most pleasing Conversation.- Ralph read Plays to her in the Evenings, they grew intimate, she took another Lodging, and he follow’d her. They liv’d together some time, but he being still out of Business, & her Income not sufficient to maintain them with her Child, he took a Resolution of going from London, to try for a Country School, which he thought himself well qualify’d to undertake, as he wrote an excellent Hand, & was a Master of Arithmetic & Accounts.- This however he deem’d a Business below him, & confident of future better Fortune when he should be unwilling to have it known that he once was so meanly employ’d, he chang’d his Name, & did me the Honour to assume mine.- For I soon after had a Letter from him, acquainting me, that he was settled in a small Village in Berkshire, I think it was, where he taught reading & writing to 10 or a dozen Boys at 6 pence each per Week, recommending Mrs T. to my Care, and desiring me to write to him directing for Mr Franklin Schoolmaster at such a Place. He continu’d to write frequently, sending me large Specimens of an Epic Poem, which he was then composing, and desiring my Remarks & Corrections.- These I gave him from time to time, but endeavour’d rather to discourage his Proceeding. One of Young’s Satires was then just publish’d. I copy’d & sent him a great Part of it, which set in a strong Light the Folly of pursuing the Muses with any Hope of Advancement by them. All was in vain. Sheets of the Poem continu’d to come by every Post. In the mean time Mrs T. having on his Account lost her Friends & Business, was often in Distresses, & us’d to send for me, and borrow what I could spare to help her out of them. I grew fond of her Company, and being at this time under no Religious Restraints, & presuming on my Importance to her, I attempted Familiarities, (another Erratum) which she repuls’d with a proper Resentment, and acquainted him with my Behaviour. This made a Breach between us, & when he return’d again to London, he let me know he thought I had cancel’d all the Obligations he had been under to me.- So I found I was never to expect his Repaying me what I lent to him or advanc’d for him. This was however not then of much Consequence, as he was totally unable.- And in the Loss of his Friendship I found my self reliev’d from a Burthen. I now began to think of getting a little Money beforehand; and expecting better Work, I left Palmer’s to work at Watts’s near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a still greater Printing House. Here I continu’d all the rest of my Stay in London.

At my first Admission into this Printing House, I took to working at Press, imagining I felt a Want of the Bodily Exercise I had been us’d to in America, where Presswork is mix’d with Composing. I drank only Water; the other Workmen, near 50 in Number, were great Guzzlers of Beer. On occasion I carried up & down Stairs a large Form of Types in each hand, when others carried but one in both Hands. They wonder’d to see from this & several Instances that the Water-American as they call’d me was stronger than themselves who drunk strong Beer. We had an Alehouse Boy who attended always in the House to supply the Workmen. My Companion at the Press, drank every day a Pint before Breakfast, a Pint at Breakfast with his Bread and Cheese; a Pint between Breakfast and Dinner; a Pint at Dinner; a Pint in the Afternoon about Six o’clock, and another when he had done his Day’s-Work. I thought it a detestable Custom.- But it was necessary, he suppos’d, t drink strong Beer that he might be strong to labour. I endeavour’d to convince him that the Bodily Strength afforded by Beer could only be in proportion to the Grain or Flour of the Barley dissolved in the Water of which it was made; that there was more Flour in a Pennyworth of Bread, and therefore if he would eat that with a Pint of Water, it would give him more Strength than a Quart of Beer.- He drank on however, & had 4 or 5 Shillings to Pay out of his Wages every Saturday Night for that muddling Liquor; an Expence I was free from.- And thus these poor Devils keep themselves always under.

Watts after some Weeks desiring to have me in the Composing-Room, I left the Pressmen. A new Bienvenu or Sum for Drink, being 5s., was demanded of me by the Compostors. I thought it an Imposition, as I had paid below. The Master thought so too, and forbad my Paying it. I stood out two or three Weeks, was accordingly considered as an Excommunicate, and had so many little Pieces of private Mischief done me, by mixing my Sorts, transposing my Pages, breaking my Matter, &c. &c. if I were ever so little out of the Room, & all ascrib’d to the Chapel Ghost, which they said ever haunted those not regularly admitted, that notwithstanding the Master’s Protection, I found myself oblig’d to comply and pay the Money; convinc’d of the Folly of being on ill Terms with those one is to live with continually. I was now on a fair Footing with them, and soon acquir’d considerable Influence. I propos’d some reasonable Alterations in their Chapel *005 Laws, and carried them against all Opposition. From my Example a great Part of them, left their muddling Breakfast of Beer & Bread & Cheese, finding they could with me be supply’d from a neighbouring House with a large Porringer of hot Water-gruel, sprinkled with Pepper, crumb’d with Bread, & a Bit of Butter in it, for the Price of a Pint of Beer, viz, three halfpence. This was a more comfortable as well as cheaper Breakfast, & kept their Heads clearer.- Those who continu’d sotting with Beer all day, were often, by not paying, out of Credit at the Alehouse, and us’d to make Interest with me to get Beer, their Light, as they phras’d it, being out. I watch’d the Pay table on Saturday Night, & collected what I stood engag’d for them, having to pay some times near Thirty Shillings a Week on their Accounts.- This, and my being esteem’d a pretty good Riggite, that is a jocular verbal Satyrist, supported my Consequence in the Society.- My constant Attendance, (I never making a St. Monday), recommended me to the Master; and my uncommon Quickness at Composing, occasion’d my being put upon all Work of Dispatch which was generally better paid. So I went on now very agreably.-

My Lodging in Little Britain being too remote, I found another in Duke-street opposite to the Romish Chapel. It was two pair of Stairs backwards at an Italian Warehouse. A Widow Lady kept the House; she had a Daughter & a Maid Servant, and a Journey-man who attended the Warehouse, but lodg’d abroad.- After sending to enquire my Character at the House where I last lodg’d, she agreed to take me in at the same Rate 3s. 6d. per Week, cheaper as she said from the Protection she expected in having a Man lodge in the House. She was a Widow, an elderly Woman, had been bred a Protestant, being a Clergyman’s Daughter, but was converted to the Catholic Religion by her Husband, whose Memory she much revered, had lived much among People of Distinction, and knew a 1000 Anecdotes of them as far back as the Times of Charles the second. She was lame in her Knees with the Gout, and therefore seldom stirr’d out of her Room, so sometimes wanted Company; and hers was so highly amusing to me; that I was sure to spend an Evening with her whenever she desired it. Our Supper was only half an Anchovy each, on a very little Strip of Bread & Butter, and half a Pint of Ale between us.- But the Entertainment was in her Conversation. My always keeping good Hours, and giving little Trouble in the Family, made her unwilling to part with me; so that when I talk’d of a Lodging I had heard of, nearer my Business, for 2s. a Week, which, intent as I now was on saving Money, made some Difference; she bid me not think of it, for she would abate me two Shillings a Week for the future, so I remain’d with her at 1s. 6d. as long as I staid in London.-

In a Garret of her House there lived a Maiden Lady of 70 in the most retired Manner, of whom my Landlady gave me this Account, that she was a Roman-Catholic, had been sent abroad when young & lodg’d in a Nunnery with an Intent of becoming a Nun: but the Country not agreeing with her, she return’d to England, where there being no Nunnery, she had vow’d to lead the Life of a Nun as near as might be done in those Circumstances: Accordingly She had given all her Estate to charitable Uses, reserving only Twelve Pounds a Year to live on, and out of this Sum she still gave a great deal in Charity, living her self on Watergruel only, & using no Fire but to boil it.- She had lived many Years in that Garret, being permitted to remain there gratis by successive catholic Tenants of the House below, as they deem’d it a Blessing to have her there. A Priest visited her, to confess her every Day. I have ask’d her, says my Landlady, how she, as she liv’d, could possibly find so much Employment for a Confessor? O, says she, it is impossible to avoid

vain Thoughts. I was permitted once to visit her: She was chearful & polite, & convers’d pleasantly. The Room was clean, but had no other Furniture than a Matras, a Table with a Crucifix & Book, a Stool, which she gave me to sit on, and a Picture over the Chimney of St.

Veronica, displaying her Handkerchief with the miraculous Figure of Christ’s bleeding Face on it, which she explain’d to me with great Seriousness. She look’d pale, but was never sick, and I give it as another Instance on how small an Income Life & Health may be supported.-

At Watts’s Printinghouse I contracted an Acquaintance with an ingenious young Man, one Wygate, who having wealthy Relations, had been better educated than most Printers, was a tolerable Latinist, spoke French, & lov’d Reading. I taught him, & a Friend of his, to swim, at twice going into the River, & they soon became good Swimmers. They introduc’d me to some Gentlemen from the Country who went to Chelsea by Water to see the College and Don Saltero’s Curiosities. In our Return, at the Request of the Company, whose Curiosity Wygate had excited, I stript & leapt into the River, & swam from near Chelsea to Blackfryars, performing on the Way many Feats of Activity both upon & under Water, that surpriz’d & pleas’d those to whom they were Novelties.- I had from a Child been ever delighted with this Exercise, had studied & practis’d all Thevenot’s Motions & Positions, added some of my own, aiming at the graceful & easy, as well as the Useful.- All these I took this Occasion of exhibiting to the Company, & was much flatter’d by their Admiration.- And Wygate, who was desirous of becoming a Master, grew more & more attach’d to me, on that account, as well as from the Similarity of our Studies. He at length propos’d to me travelling all over Europe together, supporting ourselves every where by working at our Business. I was once inclin’d to it. But mentioning it to my good Friend Mr Denham, with whom I often spent an Hour, when I had Leisure. He dissuaded me from it; advising me to think only of returning to Pensilvania, which he was now about to do.-

I must record one Trait of this good Man’s Character. He had formerly been in Business at Bristol, but fail’d in Debt to a Number of People, compounded and went to America. There, by a close Application to Business as a Merchant, he acquir’d a plentiful Fortune in a few Years. Returning to England in the Ship with me, He invited his old Creditors to an Entertainment, at which he thank’d them for the easy Composition they had favour’d him with, & when they expected nothing but the Treat, every Man at the first Remove, found under his Plate an Order on a Banker for the full Amount of the unpaid Remainder with Interest.

He now told me he was about to return to Philadelphia, and should carry over a great Quantity of Goods in order to open a Store there: He propos’d to take me over as his Clerk, to keep his Books (in which he would instruct me) copy his Letters, and attend the Store. He added, that as soon as I should be acquainted with mercantile Business he would promote me by sending me with a Cargo of Flour & Bread &c to the West Indies, and procure me Commissions from others; which would be profitable, & if I manag’d well, would establish me handsomely. The Thing pleas’d me, for I was grown tired of London, remember’d with Pleasure the happy Months I had spent in Pennsylvania, and wish’d again to see it. Therefore I immediately agreed, on the Terms of Fifty Pounds a Year Pensylvania Money; less indeed than my then present Gettings as a Compostor, but affording a better Prospect.-

I now took Leave of Printing, as I thought for ever, and was daily employ’d in my new Business; going about with Mr Denham among the Tradesmen, to purchase various Articles, & see them pack’d up, doing Errands, calling upon Workmen to dispatch, &c. and when all was on board, I had a few Days Leisure. On one of these Days I was to my Surprize sent for by a great Man I knew only by Name, a Sir William Wyndham and I waited upon him. He had heard by some means or other of my Swimming from Chelsey to Blackfryars, and of my teaching Wygate and another young Man to swim in a few Hours. He had two Sons about to set out on their Travels; he wish’d to have them first taught Swimming; and propos’d to gratify me handsomely if I would teach them.- They were not yet come to Town and my Stay was uncertain, so I could not undertake it. But from this Incident I thought it likely, that if I were to remain in England and open a Swimming School, I might get a good deal of Money.- And it struck me so strongly, that had the Overture been sooner made me, probably I should not so soon have returned to America.- After Many Years, you & I had something of more Importance to do with one of these Sons of Sir William Wyndham, become Earl of Egremont, which I shall mention in its Place.-

Thus I spent about 18 Months in London. Most Part of the Time, I work’d hard at my Business, & spent but little upon my self except in seeing Plays, & in Books.- My Friend Ralph had kept me poor. He owed me about 27 Pounds; which I was now never likely to receive; a great Sum out of my small Earnings. I lov’d him notwithstanding, for he had many amiable Qualities.- tho’ I had by no means improv’d my Fortune.- But I had pick’d up some very ingenious Acquaintance whose Conversation was of great Advantage to me, and I had read considerably.

We sail’d from Gravesend on the 23d of July 1726.- For The Incidents of the Voyage, I refer you to my Journal, where you will find them all minutely related. Perhaps the most important Part of that Journal is the Plan to be found in it which I formed at Sea, for regulating my future Conduct in Life. It is the more remarkable, as being form’d when I was so young, and yet being pretty faithfully adhered to quite thro’ to old Age.- We landed in Philadelphia the 11th of October, where I found sundry Alterations. Keith was no longer Governor, being superceded by Major Gordon: I met him walking the Streets as a common Citizen. He seem’d a little asham’d at seeing me, but pass’d without saying any thing. I should have been as much asham’d at seeing Miss Read, had not her Friends, despairing with Reason of my Return, after the Receipt of my Letter, persuaded her to marry another, one Rogers, a Potter, which was done in my Absence. With him however she was never happy, and soon parted from him, refusing to cohabit with him, or bear his Name It being now said that he had another Wife. He was a worthless Fellow tho’ an excellent Workman which was the Temptation to her Friends. He got into Debt, and ran away in 1727 or 28, went to the West Indies, and died there. Keimer had got a better House, a Shop well supply’d with Stationary, plenty of new Types, a number of Hands tho’ none good, and seem’d to have a great deal of Business.

Mr Denham took a Store in Water Street, where we open’d our Goods. I attended the Business diligently, studied Accounts, and grew in a little Time expert at selling.- We lodg’d and boarded together, he counsell’d me as a Father, having a sincere Regard for me: I respected & lov’d him: and we might have gone on together very happily: But in the Beginning of February, 1727, when I had just pass’d my 21st Year, we both were taken ill. My Distemper was a Pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off.- I suffered a good deal, gave up the Point in my own mind, & was rather disappointed when I found my self recovering; regretting in some degree that I must now sometime or other have all that disagreable Work to do over again.- I forget what his Distemper was. It held him a long time, and at length carried him off. He left me a small Legacy in a nuncupative Will, as a Token of his Kindness for me, and he left me once more to the wide World. For the Store was taken into the Care of his Executors, and my Employment under him ended:- My Brother-in-law Homes, being now at Philadelphia, advis’d my Return to my Business. And Keimer tempted me with an Offer of large Wages by the Year to come & take the Management of his Printing-House that he might better attend his Stationer’s Shop.- I had heard a bad Character of him in London, from his Wife & her Friends, & was not fond of having any more to do with him. I try’d for farther Employment as a Merchant’s Clerk; but not readily meeting with any, I clos’d again with Keimer.-

I found in his House these Hands; Hugh Meredith a Welsh- Pensilvanian, 30 Years of Age, bred to Country Work: honest, sensible, had a great deal of solid Observation, was something of a Reader, but given to drink:- Stephen Potts, a young Country Man of full Age, bred to the Same:- of uncommon natural Parts, & great Wit & Humour, but a little idle.- These he had agreed with at extream low Wages, per Week, to be rais’d a Shilling every 3 Months, as they would deserve by improving in their Business, & the Expectation of these high Wages to come on hereafter was what he had drawn them in with.- Meredith was to work at Press, Potts at Bookbinding, which he by Agreement, was to teach them, tho’ he knew neither one nor tother. John a wild Irishman brought up to no Business, whose Service for 4 Years Keimer had purchas’d from the Captain of a Ship. He too was to be made a Pressman. George Webb, an Oxford Scholar, whose Time for 4 Years he had likewise bought, intending him for a Compositor: of whom more presently. And David Harry, a Country Boy, whom he had taken Apprentice. I soon perceiv’d that the Intention of engaging me at Wages so much higher than he had been us’d to give, was to have these raw cheap Hands form’d thro’ me, and as soon as I had instructed them, then, they being all articled to him, he should be able to do without me.- I went on however, very chearfully; put his Printing House in Order, which had been in great Confusion, and brought his Hands by degrees to mind their Business and to do it better.

It was an odd Thing to find an Oxford Scholar in the Situation of a bought Servant. He was not more than 18 Years of Age, & gave me this Account of himself; that he was born in Gloucester, educated at a Grammar School there, had been distinguish’d among the Scholars for some apparent Superiority in performing his Part when they exhibited Plays; belong’d to the Witty Club there, and had written some Pieces in Prose & Verse which were printed in the Gloucester Newspapers.- Thence he was sent to Oxford; there he continu’d about a Year, but not well-satisfy’d, wishing of all things to see London & become a Player. At length receiving his Quarterly Allowance of 15 Guineas, instead of discharging his Debts, he walk’d out of Town, hid his Gown in a Furz Bush, and footed it to London, where having no Friend to advise him, he fell into bad Company, soon spent his Guineas, found no means of being introduc’d among the Players, grew necessitous, pawn’d his Cloaths & wanted Bread. Walking the Street very hungry, & not knowing what to do with himself, a Crimp’s Bill was put into his Hand, offering immediate Entertainment & Encouragement to such as would bind themselves to serve in America. He went directly, sign’d the Indentures, was put into the Ship & came over; never writing a Line to acquaint his Friends what was become of him. He was lively, witty, good-natur’d and a pleasant Companion; but idle, thoughtless & imprudent to the last Degree.

John the Irishman soon ran away. With the rest I began to live very agreably; for they all respected me, the more as they found Keimer incapable of instructing them, and that from me they learnt something daily. We never work’d on a Saturday, that being Keimer’s Sabbath. So I had two Days for Reading. My Acquaintance with ingenious People in the Town, increased. Keimer himself treated me with great Civility & apparent Regard; and nothing now made me uneasy but my Debt to Vernon, which I was yet unable to pay being hitherto but a poor Oeconomist.- He however kindly made no Demand of it.

Our Printing-House often wanted Sorts, and there was no Letter Founder in America. I had seen Types cast at James’s in London, but without much Attention to the Manner: However I now contriv’d a Mould, made use of the Letters we had, as Puncheons, struck the Matrices in Lead, and thus supply’d in a pretty tolerable way all Deficiencies. I also engrav’d several Things on occasion. I made the Ink, I was Warehouse-man & every thing, in short quite a Factotum.-

But however serviceable I might be, I found that my Services became every Day of less Importance, as the other Hands improv’d in the Business. And when Keimer paid my second Quarter’s Wages, he let me know that he felt them too heavy, and thought I should make an Abatement. He grew by degrees less civil, put on more of the Master, frequently found Fault, was captious and seem’d ready for an Out-breaking. I went on nevertheless with a good deal of Patience, thinking that his incumber’d Circumstances were partly the Cause. At length a Trifle snapt our Connexion. For a great Noise happening near the Courthouse, I put my Head out of the Window to see what was the Matter. Keimer being in the Street look’d up & saw me, call’d out to me in a loud Voice and angry Tone to mind my Business, adding some reproachful Words, that nettled me the more for their Publicity, all the Neighbours who were looking out on the same Occasion being Witnesses how I was treated. He came up immediately into the Printing-House, continu’d the Quarrel, high Words pass’d on both Sides, he gave me the Quarter’s Warning we had stipulated, expressing a Wish that he had not been oblig’d to so long a Warning: I told him his Wish was unnecessary for I would leave him that Instant; and so taking my Hat walk’d out of Doors; desiring Meredith whom I saw below to take care of some Things I left, & bring them to my Lodging.-

Meredith came accordingly in the Evening, when we talk’d my Affair over. He had conceiv’d a great Regard for me, & was very unwilling that I should leave the House while he remain’d in it. He dissuaded me from returning to my native Country which I began to think of. He reminded me that Keimer was in debt for all he possess’d, that his Creditors began to be uneasy, that he kept his Shop miserably, sold often without Profit for ready Money, and often trusted without keeping Account. That he must therefore fail; which would make a Vacancy I might profit of.- I objected my Want of Money. He then let me know, that his Father had a high Opinion of me, and from some Discourse that had pass’d between them, he was sure would advance Money to set us up, if I would enter into Partnership with him.- My Time, says he, will be out with Keimer in the Spring. By that time we may have our Press & Types in from London:- I am sensible I am no Workman. If you like it, Your Skill in the Business shall be set against the Stock I furnish; and we will share the Profits equally.- The Proposal was agreable, and I consented. His Father was in Town, and approv’d of it, the more as he saw I had great Influence with his Son, had prevail’d on him to abstain long from Dramdrinking, and he hop’d might break him of that wretched Habit entirely, when we came to be so closely connected. I gave an Inventory to the Father, who carry’d it to a Merchant; the Things were sent for; the Secret was to be kept till they should arrive, and in the mean time I was to get Work if I could at the other Printing House.- But I found no Vacancy there, and so remain’d idle a few Days, when Keimer, on a Prospect of being employ’d to print some Paper-money, in New Jersey, which would require Cuts & various Types that I only could supply, and apprehending Bradford might engage me & get the Jobb from him, sent me a very civil Message, that old Friends should not part for a few Words the Effect of sudden Passion, and wishing me to return. Meredith persuaded me to comply, as it would give more Opportunity for his Improvement under my daily Instructions.- So I return’d, and we went on more smoothly than for some time before.- The New Jersey Jobb was obtain’d. I contriv’d a Copper-Plate Press for it, the first that had been seen in the Country.- I cut several Ornaments and Checks for the Bills. We went together to Burlington, where I executed the Whole to Satisfaction, & he received so large a Sum for the Work, as to be enabled thereby to keep his Head much longer above Water.-

At Burlington I made an Acquaintance with many principal People of the Province. Several of them had been appointed by the Assembly a Committee to attend the Press, and take Care that no more Bills were printed than the Law directed. They were therefore by Turns constantly with us, and generally he who attended brought with him a Friend or two for Company. My Mind having been much more improv’d by Reading than Keimer’s, I suppose it was for that Reason my Conversation seem’d to be more valu’d. They had me to their Houses, introduc’d me to their Friends and show’d me much Civility, while he, tho’ the Master, was a little neglected. In truth he was an odd Fish, ignorant of common Life, fond of rudely opposing receiv’d Opinions, slovenly to extream dirtiness, enthusiastic in some Points of Religion, and a little Knavish withal. We continu’d there near 3 Months, and by that time I could reckon among my acquired Friends, Judge Allen, Samuel Bustill, the Secretary of the Province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper & several of the Smiths, Members of Assembly, and Isaac Decow the Surveyor General. The latter was a shrewd sagacious old Man, who told me that he began for himself when young by wheeling Clay for the Brickmakers, learnt to write after he was of Age, carry’d the Chain for Surveyors, who taught him Surveying, and he had now by his Industry acquir’d a good Estate; and says he, I foresee, that you will soon work this Man out of his Business & make a Fortune in it at Philadelphia. He had not then the least Intimation of my Intention to set up there or any where.- These Friends were afterwards of great Use to me, as I occasionally was to some of them.- They all continued their Regard for me as long as they lived.-

Before I enter upon my public Appearance in Business, it may be well to let you know the then State of my Mind, with regard to my Principles and Morals, that you may see how far those influenc’d the future Events of my Life. My Parent’s had early given me religious Impressions, and brought me through my Childhood piously in the Dissenting Way. But I was scarce 15 when, after doubting by turns of several Points as I found them disputed in the different Books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation it self. Some Books against Deism fell into my Hands; they were said to be the Substance of Sermons preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an Effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them: For the Arguments of the Deists which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much Stronger than the Refutations. In short I soon became a thorough Deist. My Arguments perverted some others, particularly Collins & Ralph: but each of them having afterwards wrong’d me greatly without the least Compunction, and recollecting Keith’s Conduct towards me, (who was another Freethinker) and my own towards Vernon & Miss Read which at Times gave me great Trouble, I began to suspect that this Doctrine tho’ it might be true, was not very useful.- My London Pamphlet, which had for its Motto those Lines of Dryden

- Whatever is, is right

Tho’ purblind Man / Sees but a Part of

The Chain, the nearest Link,

His Eyes not carrying to the equal Beam,

That poizes all, above.

And from the Attributes of God, his infinite Wisdom, Goodness & Power concluded that nothing could possibly be wrong in the World, & that Vice & Virtue were empty Distinctions, no such Things existing: appear’d now not so clever a Performance as I once thought it; and I doubted whether some Error had not insinuated itself unperceiv’d, into my Argument, so as to infect all that follow’d, as is common in metaphysical Reasonings.- I grew convinc’d that Truth, Sincerity & Integrity in Dealings between Man & Man, were of the utmost Importance to the Felicity of Life, and I form’d written Resolutions, (which still remain in my Journal Book) to practise them ever while I lived. Revelation had indeed no weight with me as such; but I entertain’d an Opinion, that tho’ certain Actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them; yet probably those Actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded

because they were beneficial to us, in their own Natures, all the Circumstances of things considered. And this Persuasion, with the kind hand of Providence, or some guardian Angel, or accidental favourable Circumstances & Situations, or all together, preserved me (thro’ this dangerous Time of Youth & the hazardous Situations I was sometimes in among Strangers, remote from the Eye & Advice of my Father,) without any

wilful gross Immorality or Injustice that might have been expected from my Want of Religion.- I say wilful, because the Instances I have mentioned, had something of Necessity in them, from my Youth, Inexperience, & the Knavery of others.- I had therefore a tolerable Character to begin the World with, I valued it properly, & determin’d to preserve it.-

We had not been long return’d to Philadelphia, before the New Types arriv’d from London.- We settled with Keimer, & left him by his Consent before he heard of it.- We found a House to hire near the Market, and took it. To lessen the Rent, (which was then but 24L a Year tho’ I have since known it let for 70) We took in Thos Godfrey a Glazier, & his Family, who were to pay a considerable Part of it to us, and we to board with them. We had scarce opened our Letters & put our Press in Order, before George House, an Acquaintance of mine, brought a Countryman to us; whom he had met in the Street enquiring for a Printer. All our Cash was now expended in the Variety of Particulars we had been obliged to procure, & this Countryman’s Five Shillings, being our First Fruits & coming so seasonably, gave me more Pleasure than any Crown I have since earn’d; and from the Gratitude I felt towards House, has made me often more ready than perhaps I should otherwise have been to assist young Beginners.-

There are Croakers in every Country always boding its Ruin. Such a one then lived in Philadelphia, a Person of Note, an elderly Man, with a wise Look and very grave Manner of Speaking. His Name was Samuel Mickle. This Gentleman, a Stranger to me, stopt one Day at my Door, and ask’d me if I was the young Man who had lately opened a new Printing-house: Being answer’d in the Affirmative; He said he was sorry for me; because it was an expensive Undertaking, & the Expence would be lost, for Philadelphia was a sinking Place, the People already half Bankrupts or near being so; all Appearances of the contrary such as new Buildings & the Rise of Rents, being to his certain Knowledge fallacious, for they were in fact among the Things that would soon ruin us. And he gave me such a Detail of Misfortunes now existing or that were soon to exist, that he left me half-melancholy. Had I known him before I engag’d in this Business, probably I never should have done it.- This Man continu’d to live in this decaying Place, & to declaim in the same Strain, refusing for many Years to buy a House there, because all was going to Destruction, and at last I had the Pleasure of seeing him give five times as much for one as he might have bought it for when he first began his Croaking.-

I should have mention’d before, that in the Autumn of the preceding Year, I had form’d most of my ingenious Acquaintance into a Club, for mutual Improvement, which we call’d the Junto. We met on Friday Evenings. The Rules I drew up, requir’d that every Member in his Turn should produce one or more Queries on any Point of Morals, Politics or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the Company, and once in three Months produce and read an Essay of his own Writing on any Subject he pleased. Our Debates were to be under the Direction of a President, and to be conducted in the sincere Spirit of Enquiry after Truth, without fondness for Dispute, or Desire of Victory; and to prevent Warmth, all Expressions of Positiveness in Opinion, or of direct Contradiction, were after some time made contraband & prohibited under small pecuniary Penalties. The first Members were, Joseph Brientnal, a Copyer of Deeds for the Scriveners; a good-natur’d friendly middle-ag’d Man, a great Lover of Poetry, reading all he could meet with, & writing some that was tolerable; very ingenious in many little Nicknackeries, & of sensible Conversation. Thomas Godfrey, a self-taught Mathematician, great in his Way, & afterwards Inventor of what is now call’d Hadley’s Quadrant. But he knew little out of his way, and was not a pleasing Companion, as like most Great Mathematicians I have met with, he expected unusual Precision in every thing said, or was forever denying or distinguishing upon Trifles, to the Disturbance of all Conversation.- He soon left us.- Nicholas Scull, a Surveyor, afterwards Surveyor-General, Who lov’d Books, & sometimes made a few Verses. William Parsons, bred a Shoemaker, but loving Reading, had acquir’d a considerable Share of Mathematics, which he first studied with a View to Astrology that he afterwards laught at. He also became Surveyor General.- William Maugridge, a joiner, & a most exquisite Mechanic, & a solid sensible Man. Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, & George Webb, I have Characteris’d before. Robert Grace, a young Gentleman of some Fortune, generous, lively & witty, a Lover of Punning and of his Friends. And William Coleman, then a Merchant’s Clerk, about my Age, who had the coolest clearest Head, the best Heart, and the exactest Morals, of almost any Man I ever met with. He became afterwards a Merchant of great Note, and one of our Provincial Judges: Our Friendship continued without Interruption to his Death, upwards of 40 Years. And the Club continu’d almost as long and was the best School of Philosophy, Morals & Politics that then existed in the Province; for our Queries which were read the Week preceding their Discussion, put us on reading with Attention upon the several Subjects, that we might speak more to the purpose: and here too we acquired better Habits of Conversation, every thing being studied in our Rules which might prevent our disgusting each other. From hence the long Continuance of the Club, which I shall have frequent Occasion to speak farther of hereafter; But my giving this Account of it here, is to show something of the Interest I had, every one of these exerting themselves in recommending Business to us.- Brientnal particularly procur’d us from the Quakers, the Printing 40 Sheets of their History, the rest being to be done by Keimer: and upon this we work’d exceeding hard, for the Price was low. It was a Folio, Pro Patria Size, in Pica with Long Primer Notes. I compos’d of it a Sheet a Day, and Meredith work’d it off at Press. It was often 11 at Night and sometimes later, before I had finish’d my Distribution for the next days Work: For the little Jobbs sent in by our other Friends now & then put us back. But so determin’d I was to continue doing a Sheet a Day of the Folio, that one Night when having impos’d my Forms, I thought my Days Work over, one of them by accident was broken and two Pages reduc’d to Pie, I immediately distributed & compos’d it over again before I went to bed. And this Industry visible to our Neighbours began to give us Character and Credit; particularly I was told, that mention being made of the new Printing Office at the Merchants Every-night-Club, the general Opinion was that it must fail, there being already two Printers in the Place, Keimer & Bradford; but Doctor Baird (whom you and I saw many Years after at his native Place, St. Andrews in Scotland) gave a contrary Opinion; for the Industry of that Franklin, says he, is superior to any thing I ever saw of the kind: I see him still at work when I go home from Club; and he is at Work again before his Neighbours are out of bed. This struck the rest, and we soon after had Offers from one of them to supply us with Stationary. But as yet we did not chuse to engage in Shop Business.

I mention this Industry the more particularly and the more freely, tho’ it seems to be talking in my own Praise, that those of my Posterity who shall read it, may know the Use of that Virtue, when they see its Effects in my Favour throughout this Relation.-

George Webb, who had found a Friend that lent him wherewith to purchase his Time of Keimer, now came to offer himself as a Journeyman to us. We could not then imploy him, but I foolishly let him know, as a Secret, that I soon intended to begin a Newspaper, & might then have Work for him.- My Hopes of Success as I told him were founded on this, that the then only Newspaper, printed by Bradford was a paltry thing, wretchedly manag’d, no way entertaining; and yet was profitable to him.- I therefore thought a good Paper could scarcely fail of good Encouragement I requested Webb not to mention it, but he told it to Keimer, who immediately, to be beforehand with me, published Proposals for Printing one himself,- on which Webb was to be employ’d.- I resented this, and to counteract them, as I could not yet begin our Paper, I wrote several Pieces of Entertainment for Bradford’s Paper, under the Title of the Busy Body which Brientnal continu’d some Months. By this means the Attention of the Publick was fix’d on that paper, & Keimers Proposals which we burlesqu’d & ridicul’d, were disregarded. He began his Paper however, and after carrying it on three Quarters of a Year, with at most only 90 Subscribers, he offer’d it to me for a Trifle, & I having been ready some time to go on with it, took it in hand directly and it prov’d in a few Years extreamly profitable to me.-

I perceive that I am apt to speak in the singular Number, though our Partnership still continu’d. The Reason may be, that in fact the whole Management of the Business lay upon me. Meredith was no Compostor, a poor Pressman, & seldom sober. My Friends lamented my Connection with him, but I was to make the best of it.

Our first Papers made a quite different Appearance from any before in the Province, a better Type & better printed: but some spirited Remarks *006 of my Writing on the Dispute then going on between Governor Burnet and the Massachusetts Assembly, struck the principal People, occasion’d the Paper & the Manager of it to be much talk’d of, & in a few Weeks brought them all to be our Subscribers. Their Example was follow’d by many, and our Number went on growing continually.- This was one of the first good Effects of my having learnt a little to scribble.- Another was, that the leading Men, seeing a News Paper now in the hands of one who could also handle a Pen, thought it convenient to oblige & encourage me.- Bradford still printed the Votes & Laws & other Publick Business. He had printed an Address of the House to the Governor in a coarse blundering manner; We reprinted it elegantly & correctly, and sent one to every Member. They were sensible of the Difference, it strengthen’d the Hands of our Friends in the House, and they voted us their Printers for the Year ensuing.

Among my Friends in the House I must not forget Mr Hamilton before mentioned, who was then returned from England & had a Seat in it. He interested himself for me strongly in that Instance, as he did in many others afterwards, continuing his Patronage till his Death. *007 Mr Vernon about this time put me in mind of the Debt I ow’d him:- but did not press me.- I wrote him an ingenuous Letter of Acknowledgments, crav’d his Forbearance a little longer which he allow’d me, & as soon as I was able I paid the Principal with Interest & many Thanks.- So that

Erratum was in some degree corrected.-

But now another Difficulty came upon me, which I had never the least Reason to expect. Mr. Meredith’s Father, who was to have paid for our Printing House according to the Expectations given me, was able to advance only one Hundred Pounds, Currency, which had been paid, & a Hundred more was due to the Merchant; who grew impatient & su’d us all. We gave Bail, but saw that if the Money could not be rais’d in time, the Suit must come to a Judgment & Execution, & our hopeful Prospects must with us be ruined, as the Press & Letters must be sold for Payment, perhaps at half-Price.- In this Distress two true Friends whose Kindness I have never forgotten nor ever shall forget while I can remember any thing, came to me separately unknown to each other, and without any Application from me, offering each of them to advance me all the Money that should be necessary to enable me to take the whole Business upon my self if that should be practicable, but they did not like my continuing the Partnership with Meredith, who as they said was often seen drunk in the Streets, & playing at low Games in Alehouses, much to our Discredit. These two Friends were William Coleman & Robert Grace. I told them I could not propose a Separation while any Prospect remain’d of the Merediths fulfilling their Part of our Agreement. Because I thought my self under great Obligations to them for what they had done & would do if they could. But if they finally fail’d in their Performance, & our Partnership must be dissolv’d, I should then think myself at Liberty to accept the Assistance of my Friends. Thus the matter rested for some time. When I said to my Partner, perhaps your Father is dissatisfied at the Part you have undertaken in this Affair of ours, and is unwilling to advance for you & me what he would for you alone: If that is the Case, tell me, and I will resign the whole to you & go about my Business. No- says he, my Father has really been disappointed and is really unable; and I am unwilling to distress him farther. I see this is a Business I am not fit for. I was bred a Farmer, and it was a Folly in me to come to Town & put my self at 30 Years of Age an Apprentice to learn a new Trade. Many of our Welsh People are going to settle in North Carolina where Land is cheap: I am inclin’d to go with them, & follow my old Employment. You may find Friends to assist you. If you will take the Debts of the Company upon you, return to my Father the hundred Pound he has advanc’d, pay my little personal Debts, and give me Thirty Pounds & a new Saddle, I will relinquish the Partnership & leave the whole in your Hands. I agreed to this Proposal. It was drawn up in Writing, sign’d & seal’d immediately. I gave him what he demanded & he went soon after to Carolina; from whence he sent me next Year two long Letters, containing the best Account that had been given of that Country, the Climate, Soil, Husbandry, &c. for in those Matters he was very judicious. I printed them in the Papers, and they gave grate Satisfaction to the Publick.

As soon as he was gone, I recurr’d to my two Friends; and because I would not give an unkind Preference to either, I took half what each had offered & I wanted, of one, & half of the other; paid off the Company Debts, and went on with the Business in my own Name, advertising that the Partnership was dissolved. I think this was in or about the Year 1729.-

About this Time there was a Cry among the People for more Paper-Money, only 15,000L being extant in the Province & that soon to be sunk. The wealthy Inhabitants oppos’d any Addition, being against all Paper Currency, from an Apprehension that it would depreciate as it had done in New England to the Prejudice of all Creditors.- We had discuss’d this Point in our Junto, where I was on the Side of an Addition, being persuaded that the first small Sum struck in 1723 had done much good, by increasing the Trade Employment, & Number of Inhabitants in the Province, since I now saw all the old Houses inhabited, & many new ones building, where as I remember’d well, that when I first walk’d about the Streets of Philadelphia, eating my Roll, I saw most of the Houses in Walnut street between Second & Front streets with Bills on their Doors, to be let; and many likewise in Chestnut Street, & other Streets; which made me then think the Inhabitants of the City were one after another deserting it.- Our Debates possess’d me so fully of the Subject, that I wrote and printed an anonymous Pamphlet on it, entituled, The Nature & Necessity of a Paper Currency. It was well receiv’d by the common People in general; but the Rich Men dislik’d it; for it increas’d and strengthen’d the Clamour for more Money; and they happening to have no Writers among them that were able to answer it, their Opposition slacken’d, & the Point was carried by a Majority in the House. My Friends there, who conceiv’d I had been of some Service, thought fit to reward me, by employing me in printing the Money, a very profitable Jobb, and a great Help to me.- This was another Advantage gain’d by my being able to write. The Utility of this Currency became by Time and Experience so evident, as never afterwards to be much disputed, so that it grew soon to 55,000L and in 1739 to 80,000L since which it arose during War to upwards of 350,000L. Trade, Building & Inhabitants all the while increasing. Tho’ I now think there are Limits beyond which the Quantity may be hurtful.-

I soon after obtain’d, thro’ my Friend Hamilton, the Printing of the Newcastle Paper Money, another profitable Jobb, as I then thought it; small Things appearing great to those in small Circumstances. And these to me were really great Advantages, as they were great Encouragements.- He procured me also the Printing of the Laws and Votes of that Government which continu’d in my Hands as long as I follow’d the Business.-

I now open’d a little Stationer’s Shop. I had in it Blanks of all Sorts the correctest that ever appear’d among us, being assisted in that by my Friend Brientnal; I had also Paper, Parchment, Chapmen’s Books, &c. One Whitemash a Compositor I had known in London, an excellent Workman now came to me & work’d with me constantly & diligently, and I took an Apprentice the Son of Aquila Rose. I began now gradually to pay off the Debt I was under for the Printing-House.- In order to secure my Credit and Character as a Tradesmen, I took care not only to be in

Reality Industrious & frugal, but to avoid all Appearances of the Contrary. I drest plainly; I was seen at no Places of idle Diversion; I never went out a-fishing or shooting; a Book, indeed, sometimes debauch’d me from my Work; but that was seldom, snug, & gave no Scandal: and to show that I was not above my Business, I sometimes brought home the Paper I purchas’d at the Stores, thro’ the Streets on a Wheelbarrow. Thus being esteem’d an industrious thriving young Man, and paying duly for what I bought, the Merchants who imported Stationary solicited my Custom, others propos’d supplying me with Books, & I went on swimmingly.- In the mean time Keimer’s Credit & Business declining daily, he was at last forc’d to sell his Printing-house to satisfy his Creditors. He went to Barbadoes, & there lived some Years, in very poor Circumstances.

His Apprentice David Harry, whom I had instructed while I work’d with him, set up in his Place at Philadelphia having bought his Materials. I was at first apprehensive of a powerful Rival in Harry, as his Friends were very able, & had a good deal of Interest. I therefore propos’d a Partnership to him; which he, fortunately for me, rejected with Scorn. He was very proud, dress’d like a Gentleman, liv’d expensively, took much Diversion & Pleasure abroad, ran in debt, & neglected his Business, upon which all Business left him; and finding nothing to do, he follow’d Keimer to Barbadoes; taking the Printinghouse with him. There this Apprentice employ’d his former Master as a Journeyman. They quarrel’d often. Harry went continually behind-hand, and at length was forc’d to sell his Types, and return to his Country Work in Pensilvania. The Person that bought them, employ’d Keimer to use them, but in a few years he died. There remain’d now no Competitor with me at Philadelphia, but the old one, Bradford, who was rich & easy, did a little Printing now & then by straggling Hands, but was not very anxious about the Business. However, as he kept the Post Office, it was imagined he had better Opportunities of obtaining News, his Paper was thought a better Distributer of Advertisements than mine, & therefore had many more, which was a profitable thing to him & a Disadvantage to me. For tho’ I did indeed receive & send Papers by the Post, yet the publick Opinion was otherwise; for what I did send was by Bribing the Riders who took them privately: Bradford being unkind enough to forbid it: which occasion’d some Resentment on my Part; and I thought so meanly of him for it, that when I afterwards came into his Situation, I took care never to imitate it.

I had hitherto continu’d to board with Godfrey who lived in Part of my House with his Wife & Children, & had one Side of the Shop for his Glazier’s Business, tho’ he work’d little, being always absorb’d in his Mathematics.- Mrs Godfrey projected a Match for me with a Relation’s Daughter, took Opportunities of bringing us often together, till a serious Courtship on my Part ensu’d the Girl being in herself very deserving. The old Folks encourag’d me by continual Invitations to Supper, & by leaving us together, till at length it was time to explain. Mrs Godfrey manag’d our little Treaty. I let her know that I expected as much Money with their Daughter as would pay off my Remaining Debt for the Printing-house, which I believe was not then above a Hundred Pounds. She brought me Word they had no such Sum to spare. I said they might mortgage their House in the Loan Office.- The Answer to this after some Days was, that they did not approve the Match; that on Enquiry of Bradford they had been inform’d the Printing Business was not a profitable one, the Types would soon be worn out & more wanted, that S. Keimer & D. Harry had fail’d one after the other, and I should probably soon follow them; and therefore I was forbidden the House, & the Daughter shut up.- Whether this was a real Change of Sentiment, or only Artifice, on a Supposition of our being too far engag’d in Affection to retract, & therefore that we should steal a Marriage, which would leave them at Liberty to give or withhold what they pleas’d, I know not: But I suspected the latter, resented it, and went no more. Mrs Godfrey brought me afterwards some more favourable Accounts of their Disposition, & would have drawn me on again: But I declared absolutely my Resolution to have nothing more to do with that Family. This was resented by the Godfreys, we differ’d, and they removed, leaving me the whole House, and I resolved to take no more Inmates. But this Affair having turn’d my Thoughts to Marriage, I look’d round me, and made Overtures of Acquaintance in other Places; but soon found that the Business of a Printer being generally thought a poor one, I was not to expect Money with a Wife unless with such a one, as I should not otherwise think agreable.- In the mean time, that hard-to-be-govern’d Passion of Youth, had hurried me frequently into Intrigues with low Women that fell in my Way, which were attended with some Expence & great Inconvenience, besides a continual Risque to my Health by a Distemper which of all Things I dreaded, tho’ by great good Luck I escaped it.-

A friendly Correspondence as Neighbours & old Acquaintances, had continued between me & Mrs Read’s Family who all had a Regard for me from the time of my first Lodging in their House. I was often invited there and consulted in their Affairs, wherein I sometimes was of Service.- I pity’d poor Miss Read’s unfortunate Situation, who was generally dejected, seldom chearful, and avoided Company. I consider’d my Giddiness & Inconstancy when in London as in a great degree the Cause of her Unhappiness; tho’ the Mother was good enough to think the Fault more her own than mine, as she had prevented our Marrying before I went thither, and persuaded the other Match in my Absence. Our mutual Affection was revived, but there were now great Objections to our Union. That Match was indeed look’d upon as invalid, a preceding Wife being said to be living in England; but this could not easily be prov’d, because of the Distance &c. And tho’ there was a Report of his Death, it was not certain. Then, tho’ it should be true, he had left many Debts which his Successor might be call’d upon to pay. We ventured however, over all these Difficulties, and I took her to Wife Sept. 1. 1730. None of the Inconveniencies happened that we had apprehended, she prov’d a good & faithful Helpmate, assisted me much by attending the Shop, we throve together, and have ever mutually endeavour’d to make each other happy.- Thus I corrected that great Erratum as well as I could.

About this Time our Club meeting, not at a Tavern, but in a little Room of Mr Grace’s set apart for that Purpose; a Proposition was made by me, that since our Books were often referr’d to in our Disquisitions upon the Queries, it might be convenient to us to have them all together where we met, that upon Occasion they might be consulted; and By thus clubbing our Books to a common Library, we should, while we lik’d to keep them together, have each of us the Advantage of using the Books of all the other Members, which would be nearly as beneficial as if each owned the whole. It was lik’d and agreed to, & we fill’d one End of the Room with such Books as we could best spare. The Number was not so great as we expected; and tho’ they had been of great Use, yet some Inconveniencies occurring for want of due Care of them, the Collection after about a Year was separated, & each took his Books home again.

And now I set on foot my first Project of a public Nature, that for a Subscription Library. I drew up the Proposals, got them put into Form by our great Scrivener Brockden, and by the help of my Friends in the Junto, procur’d Fifty Subscribers of 40s. each to begin with & 10s. a Year for 50 Years, the Term our Company was to continue. We afterwards obtain’d a Charter, the Company being increas’d to 100. This was the Mother of all the N American Subscription Libraries now so numerous. It is become a great thing itself, & continually increasing.- These Libraries have improv’d the general Conversation of the Americans, made the common Tradesmen & Farmers as intelligent as most Gentlemen from other Countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the Stand so generally made throughout the Colonies in Defence of their Privileges.-


Thus far was written with the Intention express’d in the Beginning and therefore contains several little family Anecdotes of no Importance to others. What follows was written many Years after in compliance with the Advice contain’d in these Letters, and accordingly intended for the Publick. The Affairs of the Revolution occasion’d the Interruption.


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Chicago: Benjamin Franklin, "Part One," The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2024,

MLA: Franklin, Benjamin. "Part One." The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2024.

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