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Page 3

Benjamin Franklin

1706-1790

Governor Keith, on learning the advice and decision of Franklin's father, offered himself to furnish the necessary materials for a printing establishment, and proposed to Franklin to make a voyage to England to procure them. This proposal Franklin readily accepted, and with gratitude to his ,generous benefactor, he sailed for England in 1725, accompanied by his friend Ralph, one of his literary associates in Philadelphia.

Before his departure, he exchanged promises of fidelity with Miss Reed of Philadelphia, with whose father he had lodged. Upon his arrival in London, Mr. Franklin found that Governor Keith, upon whose letters of credit and recommendation he relied, had entirely deceived him. He was now obliged to work as a journeyman printer, and obtained employment in an office in Bartholomew-close. His friend Ralph did not so readily find the means of subsistence, and was a constant drain upon the earnings of Franklin. In that great city, the morals of the young travelers were not much improved; Ralph forgot, or acted as if he had forgotten, that he had a wife and child across the Atlantic; and Franklin was equally forgetful of his promises and engagements to Miss Reed. About this period he published, "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain," dedicated to Ralph, and intended as an answer to Wollaston's "Religion of Nature." This piece gained for him some degree of reputation, and introduced him to the acquaintance of Dr. Mandeville, author of the "Fable of the Bees," and some other literary characters Franklin was always temperate and industrious, and his habits in this respect were eventually the means of securing his morals, as well as of raising his fortune. In the interesting account which he has left of his own life, is a narrative of the method which he took in reforming the sottish habits of his fellow-workmen in the second printing office in which he was engaged in London, and which was situated in the neighborhood of Lincoln's-inn-fields. He tried to persuade them that there was more real sustenance in a penny roll, than in a pint of porter; at first, the plan of economy which he proposed was treated with contempt or ridicule; but in the end he was able to induce several of them to substitute a warm and nourishing breakfast, in the place of stimulating liquors.

Having resided about a year and a half in London, he concerted a scheme with an acquaintance, to make the tour of Europe. At this juncture, however, he fell in company with a mercantile friend, who was about returning home to Philadelphia, and who now persuaded Franklin to abandon his project of an eastern tour, and to enter his service in the capacity of a clerk. On the 22nd of July, 1726, they set sail for Philadelphia, where they arrived the 11th of October.

The prospects of Franklin were now brighter. He had attached to his new adopted profession, and by his assiduous attention to business gained the confidence of his employer so much, that he was about to be commissioned as supercargo to the West Indies, when of a sudden his patron died, by which, not only his fair prospects were blighted, but he was once more thrown out of all employment.

He had, however, one resource, and that was a return to the business of printing, in the service of his former master. At length, he became superintendent of the printing office where he worked, and finding himself able to manage the concern with some skill and profit, he resolved to embark in business for himself. He entered into partnership with a fellow-workman, named Meredith, whose friends were enabled to furnish a supply of money sufficient for the concern, which was no doubt very small; for Franklin has recorded the high degree of pleasure, which he experienced from a payment of five shillings only, the first fruits of their earnings. "The recollection," says this noble spirited man, "of what I felt on this occasion, has rendered me more disposed, than perhaps I might otherwise have been, to encourage young beginners in trade." His habitual industry and undeviating punctuality, obtained him the notice and business of the principal people in the place. He instituted a club under the name of "the Junto," for the purpose of the discussion of political and philosophical questions, which proved an excellent school for the mutual improvement of its several members. The test proposed to every candidate, before his admission, was this; "Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what profession or religion soever? Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Do you love truth for truth's sake; and will you endeavor impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to others." Mr. Franklin and his partner ventured to set up a new public paper, which his own efforts as writer and printer caused to succeed, and they obtained likewise the printing of the votes and laws of the assembly. In process of time, Meredith withdrew from the partnership, and Franklin met with friends, who enabled him to undertake the whole concern in his own name, and add to it the business of a stationer.

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