John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

Benjamin Franklin. A picture of the struggles of our infant nation, one hundred years ago online

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"Print me as I am." - CROMWELL.







Next to George Washington, we must write, upon the Catalogue
of American Patriots, the name of Benjamin Franklin. He had so
many virtues that there is no need of exaggerating them; so few
imperfections that they need not be concealed. The writer has
endeavored to give a perfectly accurate view of his character, and of
that great struggle, in which he took so conspicuous a part, which
secured the Independence of the United States. Probably there can no
where be found, within the same limits, so vivid a picture of Life in
America, one hundred years ago, as the career of Franklin presents.

This volume is the twelfth of the Library Series of Pioneers and
Patriots. The series presents a graphic history of our country from
its discovery.

1. _Christopher Columbus_ reveals to us the West Indies, and gives a
narrative of wonders unsurpassed in fact or fable.

2. _De Soto_ conducts us to Florida, and leads us through scenes of
romance, crime, blood and woe - through many Indian tribes, across the
continent, to the Mississippi, where he finds his melancholy grave.

3. _La Salle_, and his heroic companions, traversed thousands of miles
of majestic lakes and unknown rivers, and introduces us to innumerable
barbaric tribes. There is no other writer, who, from his own personal
observation, can give one so vivid an idea of Life in the Indian
village and wigwam.

4. _Miles Standish_ was the Captain of the Pilgrims. He conducts us in
the May Flower, across the Atlantic, lands us at Plymouth, and tells
the never to be forgotten story of the heroism of our fathers in
laying the foundations of this great republic.

5. _Captain Kidd_, and the Buccaneers, reveal to us the awful
condition of North and South America, when there was no protecting law
here, and when pirates swept sea and land, inflicting atrocities, the
narrative of which causes the ear which hears it to tingle.

6. _Peter Stuyvesant_ takes us by the hand, and introduces us to the
Dutch settlement at the mouth of the Hudson, conveys us, in his
schooner, up the solitary river, along whose forest-covered banks
Indian villages were scattered; and reveals to us all the struggles,
by which the Dutch New Amsterdam was converted into the English New

7. _Benjamin Franklin_ should chronologically take his place
here. There is probably not, in the compass of all literature, a
biography more full of entertainment and valuable thought, than
a truthful sketch of the career of Benjamin Franklin. He leads us to
Philadelphia, one hundred and fifty years ago, and makes us perfectly
familiar with life there and then. He conducts us across the Atlantic
to the Court of St. James, and the Court of Versailles. There is no
writer, French or English, who has given such vivid sketches of the
scenes which were witnessed there, as came from the pen of Benjamin
Franklin. For half a century Franklin moved amid the most stupendous
events, a graphic history of which his pen has recorded.

8. _George Washington_ has no superior. Humanity is proud of his name.
He seems to have approached as near perfection as any man who ever
lived. In his wonderful career we became familiar with all the
struggles of the American Revolution. With a feeble soldiery,
collected from a population of less than three millions of people, he
baffled all the efforts of the fleets and armies of Great Britain, the
most powerful empire upon this globe.

9. _Daniel Boone_ was the Cowper of the wilderness; a solitary man
loving the silent companionship of the woods. He leads us across the
Alleghanies to the fields of Kentucky, before any white man's foot
had traversed those magnificent realms. No tale of romance could ever
surpass his adventures with the Indians.

10. _Kit Carson_ was the child of the wilderness. He was by nature a
gentleman, and one of the most lovable of men. His weird-like life
passed rapidly away, before the introduction of railroads and
steamboats. His strange, heroic adventures are ever read with
astonishment, and they invariably secure for him the respect and
affection of all who become familiar with his name.

11. _Paul Jones_ was one of the purest patriots, and perhaps the most
heroic naval hero, to whom any country has given birth. He has been so
traduced, by the Tory press of Great Britain, that even the Americans
have not yet done him full justice. This narrative of his astonishing
achievements will, it is hoped, give him rank, in the opinion of every
reader, with Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and Lafayette.

12. _David Crockett_ was a unique man. There is no one like him. Under
no institutions but ours could such a character be formed. From a log
hut, more comfortless than the wigwam of the savage, and without being
able either to read or write, he enters legislative halls, takes his
seat in Congress, and makes the tour of our great cities, attracting
crowds to hear him speak. His life is a wild romance of undoubted

Such is the character of this little library of twelve volumes. The
writer, who has now entered the evening of life, affectionately
commends them to the young men of America, upon whose footsteps their
morning sun is now rising. The life of each one, if prolonged to three
score years and ten, will surely prove a stormy scene. But it may end
in a serene and tranquil evening, ushering in the glories of an
immortal day.



As this is not improbably the last book I shall write, it may not be
improper for me to state that, at the age of twenty-four, I commenced
the career of an author, by writing "The Mother At Home." I have now
attained the age of three score years and ten. In the meantime I have
written fifty-four volumes of History or Biography. In every one it
has been my endeavor to make the inhabitants of this sad world more
brotherly, - better and happier.

The long series is probably closed with the biography of Benjamin
Franklin. Every page has been penned under this impression. A theme
more full of instruction and interest could not be chosen.

And now, in my declining years, as I feel that the battle has been
fought and, I hope, the victory won, it is an unspeakable comfort for
me to reflect, that, in all these fifty-four volumes, there is not one
line which, "dying, I could wish to blot."



_Parentage and Early Life._


The parentage of Franklin - His parents emigrate to America - Character
of his father - Abiah Folger, his mother - Birth and baptism - Influence
of his Uncle Strong - Of the Whistle - Childish exploits - Uncongenial
employment - Skill in swimming - Early reading - Boston at that time - An
indentured apprentice - Form of Indenture - Enters a printing
office - Fondness for reading - Anecdotes - Habits of study - Fondness for
argument - Adopts a vegetable diet - The two creeds. 11


_Developments of Character._

Views of the Sabbath - Writings of Collins and Shaftsbury - The creed
of Collins - Franklin at sixteen - The Courant - Denunciations of the
paper - Franklin's mode of acquiring the art of composition - His
success as a writer - The Editor prosecuted - Benjamin becomes Editor
and Publisher - Jealousy of his brother - The runaway apprentice - The
voyage to New York - Great disappointment - Eventful Journey to
Philadelphia - Gloomy prospects - The dawn of brighter days. 31


_Excursion to England._

Attention to dress - Receives a visit from Gov. Keith - His visit to
Boston - Collins returns to Philadelphia with him - Sir William Keith's
aid - Excursions on the Sabbath - Difficulty with Collins - Spending Mr.
Vernon's money - His three friends - Engagement with Deborah
Read - Voyage to England - Keith's deceit - Ralph - Franklin enters a
printing house in London. 52


_Mental and Moral Conflicts._

Faithfulness to work - Neglect of Deborah Read - Treatise on Liberty
and Necessity - Skill in swimming - Return to America - Marriage of Miss
Read - Severe sickness - Death of Mr. Denham - Returns to Keimer's
employ - The Junto - His Epitaph - Reformation of his treatise on
Liberty and Necessity - Franklin's creed. 75


_The Dawn of Prosperity._

Franklin takes a house - His first job - His industry - Plans a
Newspaper - Enters the list as a writer - Advocates a Paper
currency - Purchases Keimer's paper - Character of Meredith - Struggles
of the firm - Unexpected assistance - Dissolves partnership with
Meredith - Franklin's energetic conduct - His courtship, and
marriage - Character of Mrs. Franklin - Increase of luxury - Plans for
a library - Prosperity of Pennsylvania - Customs in Philadelphia - Style
of dress in 1726 - Franklin's social position in Philadelphia - His
success - A hard student. 101


_Religious and Philosophic Views._

Studious habits - New religion - Personal habits - Church of the Free
and Easy - His many accomplishments - The career of Hemphall - Birth
and Death of Franklin's son - The Ministry of Whitefield - Remarkable
friendship between the philosopher and the preacher - Prosperity of
Franklin - His convivial habits - The defense of Philadelphia - Birth of
a daughter - The Philadelphia Academy. 126


_The Tradesman becomes a Philosopher._

Franklin appointed Indian commissioner - Effects of Rum - Indian
logic - Accumulating honors - Benevolent enterprises - Franklin's
counsel to Tennent - Efforts for city improvement - Anecdotes - Franklin
appointed postmaster - Rumors of War - England enlists the Six Nations
in her cause - Franklin plans a Confederacy of States - Plans
rejected - Electrical experiments - Franklin's increase of
income - Fearful experiments - The kite - New honors - Views of the
French philosopher - Franklin's Religious views - His counsel to a
young pleader - Post-office Reforms. 147


_The Rising Storms of War._

Aristocracy - Anecdote - Conflicting laws of Nations - Franklin's scheme
of colonization - Proposal of the British Court - The foresight of
Franklin - Braddock's campaign - Remonstrances of Franklin and
Washington - Franklin's interviews with Braddock - Franklin's
efficiency - Confidence of Braddock - The conflict with the
Proprietaries - The non-resistant Quakers - Fate of the
Moravian villages - The winter campaign - The camp of
Gaudenhutton - Anecdote - Renewal of the strife with the
Proprietaries - Franklin recalled to assist the Assembly - Destruction
of the Fort - Claim of the Proprietaries - The great controversy. 168


_Franklin's Mission to England._

New marks of respect - Lord Loudoun - Gov. Denny and Franklin - Visit
the Indians - Franklin commissioner to England - His constant good
nature - Loudoun's delays - Wise action of an English captain - The
voyagers land at Falmouth - Journey to London - Franklin's style of
living in London - His electrical experiments - He teaches the Cambridge
professor - Complimentary action of St. Andrews - Gov. Denny displaced,
and dark clouds arising - Franklin's successful diplomacy - His son
appointed Governor of New Jersey - Great opposition - The homeward
voyage - Savage horrors - Retaliating cruelties - Franklin's efforts in
behalf of the Moravian Indians. 190


_Franklin's Second Mission to England._

Fiendish conduct of John Penn - Petition to the crown - Debt of
England - Two causes of conflict - Franklin sent to England - His
embarkation - Wise counsel to his daughter - The stamp act - American
resolves - Edmund Burke - Examination of Franklin - Words of Lord
Chatham - Dangers to English operatives - Repeal of the stamp act - Joy
in America - Ross Mackay - New taxes levied - Character of George
III - Accumulation of honors to Franklin - Warlike preparations - Human
conscientiousness - Unpopularity of William Franklin - Marriage of
Sarah Franklin - Franklin's varied investigations - Efforts to civilize
the Sandwich Islands. 215


_The Intolerance of King and Court._

Parties in England - Franklin the favorite of the opposition - Plans
of the Tories - Christian III - Letter of Franklin - Dr.
Priestley - Parisian courtesy - Louis XV - Visit to Ireland - Attempted
alteration of the Prayer Book - Letter to his son - Astounding letters
from America - Words of John Adams - Petition of the Assembly - Violent
conspiracy against Franklin - His bearing in the
court-room - Wedderburn's infamous charges - Letter of Franklin - Bitter
words of Dr. Johnson - Morals of English lords - Commercial value of
the Colonies - Dangers threatening Franklin. 240


_The Bloodhounds of War Unleashed._

The mission of Josiah Quincy - Love of England by the
Americans - Petition to the king - Sickness and death of Mrs.
Franklin - Lord Chatham - His speech in favor of the colonists - Lord
Howe - His interview with Franklin - Firmness of Franklin - His
indignation - His mirth - Franklin's fable - He embarks for
Philadelphia - Feeble condition of the colonies - England's expressions
of contempt - Franklin's reception at Philadelphia - His letter to
Edmund Burke - Post-office arrangements - Defection and conduct of
William Franklin - His arrest. 265


_Progress of the War, both of Diplomacy and the Sword._

Letter of Henry Laurens - Franklin visits the army before
Boston - Letter of Mrs. Adams - Burning of Falmouth - Franklin's journey
to Montreal - The Declaration of Independence - Anecdote of the
Hatter - Framing the Constitution - Lord Howe's Declaration - Franklin's
reply - The Conference - Encouraging letter from France - Franklin's
embassy to France - The two parties in France - The voyage - The
reception in France. 292


_The Struggles of Diplomacy._

Anecdote of Gibbon - John Adams - Residence at Passy - Lafayette
introduced - Cruise of the Reprisal - Paul Jones - Capture of
Burgoyne - Alliance with France - Anecdote of the Cake - Excitement
in England - Franklin's introduction to the king - Joy in
America - Extraordinary letter of Count Wissenstein - The
reply - Injustice to Paul Jones - French troops in America - Character
of John Adams - Franklin's mature views of human nature - Anecdote of
the Angel - Capture of Cornwallis - Its effect in England - Prejudices
of Mr. Jay - Testimony of Dr. Sparks - Jealousy of Franklin - Shrewd
diplomatic act - The treaty signed. 322


_Life's Closing Scenes._

Advice to Thomas Paine - Scenes at Passy - Journey to the Coast - Return
to America - Elected Governor of Pennsylvania - Attends the
Constitutional Convention - Proposes prayers - Remarkable
speech - Letter to Dr. Stiles - Christ on the Cross - Last sickness and
death. 356



_Parentage and Early Life._

The parentage of Franklin - His parents emigrate to
America - Character of his father - Abiah Folger, his
mother - Birth and baptism - Influence of his Uncle Strong - Of
the Whistle - Childish exploits - Uncongenial employment - Skill
in swimming. - Early reading - Boston at that time - An
indentured apprentice - Form of Indenture - Enters a printing
office - Fondness for reading - Anecdotes - Habits of
study - Fondness for argument - Adopts a vegetable diet - The
two creeds.

About the year 1685, Josiah Franklin, with his wife and three
children, emigrated from Banbury, England, to seek his fortune in this
new world. He was in all respects a very worthy man, intelligent,
industrious, and influenced to conduct by high moral and religious
principles. Several of Josiah Franklin's neighbors accompanied him in
his removal.

Boston was then a straggling village, of five or six thousand
inhabitants. In front spread out its magnificent bay, with its
beautiful islands. In the rear the primeval forest extended, almost
unbroken, through unexplored wilds to the Pacific. His trade was that
of a dyer. Finding, however, but little employment in that business,
he set up as a tallow chandler and soap boiler. Four years of life's
usual joys and sorrows passed away when Mrs. Franklin died, leaving
six children. The eldest was but eleven years of age. This motherless
little family needed a maternal guardian. Within the year, Mr.
Franklin married Abiah Folger, of Nantucket. She was the youngest
daughter of Peter Folger, a man illustrious for many virtues, and of
whom it has been well said, that "he was worthy to be the grandfather
of Benjamin Franklin." She proved to be a noble woman, and was all
that either husband or children could wish for. Ten children were the
fruit of this union. Benjamin was born on the sixth of January, (O.
S.) 1706.

He was born in the morning of a Sabbath day. His father then resided
directly opposite the Old South Church, in Milk street. The same day,
the babe, whose renown it was then little imagined would subsequently
fill the civilized world, was wrapped in blankets, and carried by his
father across the street through the wintry air, to the Old South
Church, where he was baptized by the Rev. Dr. Willard. He was named
Benjamin, after a much beloved uncle then residing in England. This
uncle was a man of some property, of decided literary tastes, and of
the simple, fervent piety, which characterized the best people of
those days. He took an ever increasing interest in Benjamin. He
eventually came over to this country, and exerted a powerful influence
in moulding the character of his nephew, whose brilliant intellect he

Soon after the birth of Benjamin, his father removed to a humble but
comfortable dwelling at the corner of Hanover and Union streets. Here
he passed the remainder of his days. When Franklin had attained the
age of five years, a terrible conflagration took place, since known as
the Great Boston Fire. Just as the cold blasts of winter began to
sweep the streets, this great calamity occurred. The whole heart of
the thriving little town was laid in ashes. Over a hundred families
found themselves in destitution in the streets.

An incident took place when Franklin was about seven years of age,
which left so indelible an impression upon his mind, that it cannot be
omitted in any faithful record of his life. He gave the following
account of the event in his autobiography, written after the lapse of
sixty-six years:

"My friends, on a holiday, filled my pockets with coppers. I
went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children;
and being charmed with the sound of a whistle that I met by
the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily gave all
my money for one. I then came home and went whistling all
over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing
all the family. My brothers and sisters and cousins,
understanding the bargain I had made, told me that I had
given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in
mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of
the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I
cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin
than the whistle gave me pleasure."

This story, as published by Franklin, with his keen practical
reflections, has become as a household word in all the families of
England and America; and has been translated into nearly all the
languages of modern Europe.

From early childhood Franklin was celebrated for his physical beauty,
his athletic vigor and his imperturbable good nature. His companions
invariably recognized him as their natural leader. He was in no
respect what would be called a religious boy, but in many things he
had a high sense of honor.

There was a marsh, flooded at high tides, where the boys used to fish
for minnows. Much trampling had converted the spot into a quagmire. A
man was about to build a house near by, and had carted a large
quantity of stones for the cellar. Franklin called the boys together
and suggested that they should go in the evening, take those stones,
and build a wharf upon which they could stand with dry feet. It was
done. And under the skilful engineering of the youthful Franklin, it
was quite scientifically done. Complaints and detection followed.
Josiah Franklin severely reproved Benjamin for the dishonest act, but
it does not appear that the conscience of the precocious boy was much
troubled. He argued very forcibly that the utility of the measure
proved its necessity.

At the age of eight years, Benjamin entered the Boston Grammar School.
His progress was very rapid, and at the close of the year he was at
the head of his class. The father had hoped to give his promising boy
a liberal education; but his large family and straitened circumstances
rendered it necessary for him to abandon the plan. At the age of ten
years his school life was completed, and he was taken into his
father's shop to run of errands, and to attend to the details of
candle-making, cutting wicks, filling moulds, and waiting upon
customers. He could write a good hand, could read fluently, could
express himself with ease on paper, but in all arithmetical studies
was very backward.

There is scarcely any sport which has such a charm for boys as
swimming. Franklin excelled all his companions. It is reported that
his skill was wonderful; and that at any time between his twelfth and
sixtieth year, he could with ease have swum across the Hellespont. In
his earliest years, in all his amusements and employments, his
inventive genius was at work in searching out expedients. To
facilitate rapidity in swimming he formed two oval pallets, much
resembling those used by painters, about ten inches long, and six
broad. A hole was cut for the thumb and they were bound fast to the
palm of the hand. Sandals of a somewhat similar construction were
bound to the soles of the feet. With these appliances Franklin found
that he could swim more rapidly, but his wrists soon became greatly
fatigued. The sandals also he found of little avail, as in swimming,
the propelling stroke is partly given by the inside of the feet and
ankles, and not entirely by the soles of the feet.

In the vicinity of Boston there was a pond a mile wide. Franklin made
a large paper kite, and when the wind blew strongly across the pond,
he raised it, and entering the water and throwing himself upon his
back was borne rapidly to the opposite shore. "The motion," he says,
"was exceedingly agreeable." A boy carried his clothes around.
Subsequently he wrote to M. Dubourg,

"I have never since that time practiced this singular mode
of swimming; though I think it not impossible to cross in
this manner from Dover to Calais. The packet boat, however,
is still preferable."[1]

[Footnote 1: Sparks' Life and Works of Franklin, Vol. 6, p. 291.]

The taste for reading of this wonderful boy was insatiable. He had
access, comparatively, to few books, but those he devoured with the
utmost eagerness. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress was, so to speak, his
first love. Having read and re-read it until his whole spirit was
incorporated with its nature, he sold the volume and purchased
Burton's Historical Collections. This consisted of quite a series of
anecdotes and adventures, written in an attractive style, and
published at a low price. In those early years he read another book
which exerted a powerful influence in the formation of his character.
When eighty years of age he alludes as follows to this work in a
letter to Mr. Samuel Mather, who was son of the author, Cotton Mather,

"When I was a boy I met with a book entitled 'Essays to do
Good,' which I think was written by your father. It had

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottBenjamin Franklin. A picture of the struggles of our infant nation, one hundred years ago → online text (page 1 of 20)