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Post by mariam on Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:50 pm

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES EDITED
BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, L.L.D.,
P. F. COLLIER & SON COMPANY, NEW YORK
(1909)
INTRODUCTORY NOTE
Benjamin Franklin was born in Milk Street, Boston, on January
6, 1706. His father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler
who married twice, and of his seventeen children Benjamin
was the youngest son. His schooling ended at ten,
and at twelve he was bound apprentice to his brother James,
a printer, who published the “New England Courant.” To this
journal he became a contributor, and later was for a time its
nominal editor. But the brothers quarreled, and Benjamin
ran away, going first to New York, and thence to Philadelphia,
where he arrived in October, 1723. He soon obtained
work as a printer, but after a few months he was induced by
Governor Keith to go to London, where, finding Keith’s promises
empty, he again worked as a compositor till he was
brought back to Philadelphia by a merchant named Denman,
who gave him a position in his business. On Denman’s death
he returned to his former trade, and shortly set up a printing
house of his own from which he published “The Pennsylvania
Gazette,” to which he contributed many essays, and
which he made a medium for agitating a variety of local
reforms. In 1732 he began to issue his famous “Poor Richard’s
Almanac” for the enrichment of which he borrowed or composed
those pithy utterances of worldly wisdom which are
the basis of a large part of his popular reputation. In 1758,
the year in which he ceases writing for the Almanac, he
printed in it “Father Abraham’s Sermon,” now regarded as
the most famous piece of literature produced in Colonial
America.Meantime Franklin was concerning himself more and more
with public affairs. He set forth a scheme for an Academy,
which was taken up later and finally developed into the
University of Pennsylvania; and he founded an “American Philosophical Society” for the purpose of enabling scientific men to communicate their discoveries to one another. He
himself had already begun his electrical researches, which,
with other scientific inquiries, he called on in the intervals
of money-making and politics to the end of his life. In 1748
he sold his business in order to get leisure for study, having
now acquired comparative wealth; and in a few years he had
made discoveries that gave him a reputation with the learned
throughout Europe. In politics he proved very able both as
an administrator and as a controversialist; but his record as
an office-holder is stained by the use he made of his position
to advance his relatives. His most notable service in
home politics was his reform of the postal system; but his
fame as a statesman rests chiefly on his services in connection
with the relations of the Colonies with Great Britain,
and later with France. In 1757 he was sent to England to
protest against the influence of the Penns in the government
of the colony, and for five years he remained there,
striving to enlighten the people and the ministry of England
as to Colonial conditions. On his return to America he
played an honorable part in the Paxton affair, through which
he lost his seat in the Assembly; but in 1764 he was again
despatched to England as agent for the colony, this time to
petition the King to resume the government from the hands
of the proprietors. In London he actively opposed the proposed
Stamp Act, but lost the credit for this and much of
his popularity through his securing for a friend the office of
stamp agent in America. Even his effective work in helping
to obtain the repeal of the act left him still a suspect; but
he continued his efforts to present the case for the Colonies
as the troubles thickened toward the crisis of the Revolution.
In 1767 he crossed to France, where he was received
with honor; but before his return home in 1775 he lost his
position as postmaster through his share in divulging to
Massachusetts the famous letter of Hutchinson and Oliver.
On his arrival in Philadelphia he was chosen a member of
the Continental Congress and in 1777 he was dispatched to
France as commissioner for the United States. Here he remained
till 1785, the favorite of French society; and with
such success did he conduct the affairs of his country that
when he finally returned he received a place only second to
that of Washington as the champion of American independence. He died on April 17, 1790.
The first five chapters of the Autobiography were composed
in England in 1771, continued in 1784-5, and again
in 1788, at which date he brought it down to 1757. After a
most extraordinary series of adventures, the original form
of the manuscript was finally printed by Mr. John Bigelow,
and is here reproduced in recognition of its value as a picture
of one of the most notable personalities of Colonial
times, and of its acknowledged rank as one of the great
autobiographies of the world.

mariam


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default Re: Benjamin Franklin

Post by mariam on Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:52 pm

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
1706-1757
TWYFORD, at the Bishop of St. Asaph’s, 1771.
The country-seat of Bishop Shipley, the good bishop, as
Dr. Franklin used to style him.¾B.
DEAR SON: I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little
anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember the inquiries
I made among the remains of my relations when you were
with me in England, and the journey I undertook for that
purpose. 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 the enjoyment of a
week’s uninterrupted leisure in my present country retirement,
I sit down to write them for you. To which I have
besides some other inducements. Having emerged from the
poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a
state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world,
and having gone so far through 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, and therefore fit to be imitated.
That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes
to say, that were it offered to my choice, I should
have no objection to a repetition of the same life from its
beginning, only asking the advantages authors have in a
* After the words “agreeable to” the words “some of” were interlined
and afterward effaced.—B.second edition to correct some faults of the first. So I might,
besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents
and events of it for others more favorable. But though this
were denied, I should still accept the offer. Since such a
repetition is not to be expected, the next 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 by
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 tiresome to
others, who, through respect to age, might conceive themselves
obliged 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 believed by nobody), 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
followed. 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, and to others that are within
his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would
not be altogether 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 mentioned happiness of
my past life to His kind providence, which lead me to the
means I used and gave them success. My belief of this induces
me to hope, though I must not presume, that the
same goodness will still be exercised toward me, in continuing
that happiness, or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse,
which I may experience as others have done: the complexion
of my future fortune being known to Him only 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, furnished me with several particulars relating to our
ancestors. From these notes I learned that the family had
lived in the same village, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, for
three hundred years, and how much longer he knew not
(perhaps from the time when the name of Franklin, thatbefore was the name of an order of people, was assumed by
them as a surname when others took surnames all over the
kingdom), on a freehold of about thirty 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 and my father followed as to their eldest
sons. When I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an
account of their births, marriages and burials from the year
1555 only, there being no registers kept in that parish at
any time preceding. By that register I perceived that I was
the youngest son of the youngest son for five 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 served an apprenticeship.
There my grandfather died and lies buried. We saw his gravestone
in 1758. His eldest son Thomas lived 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 four 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 these 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 encouraged in learning (as all my brothers
were) by an Esquire Palmer, then the principal gentleman in
that parish, he qualified himself for the business of scrivener;
became a considerable man in the county; was a chief
mover of all public-spirited undertakings for the county or
town of Northampton, and his own village, of which many
instances were related of him; and much taken notice of
and patronized by the then Lord Halifax. He died in 17O2,
January 6, old style, just four years to a day before I was
born. The account we received of his life and 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 supposed a transmigration.”
John was bred a dyer, I believe of woolens. 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, MS., of his own poetry, consisting
of little occasional pieces addressed to his friends and relations,
of which the following, sent to me, is a specimen.* He
had formed a short-hand of his own, which he taught me,
but, never practicing it, I have now forgot it. I was named
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
short-hand, 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
public affairs, from 1641 to 1717; many of the volumes are
* Here follow in the margin the words, in brackets, “here insert it,”
but the poetry is not given. Mr. Sparks informs us (Life of
Franklin, p. 6) that these volumes had been preserved, and were
in possession of Mrs. Emmons, of Boston, great-granddaughter
of their author.

mariam


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