The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Section Fourty Five
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Section Fourty Five
The following Instance will show something of the Terms on which we stood. Upon one of his Arrivals from England at Boston, he wrote to me that he should come soon to Philadelphia, but knew not where he could lodge when there, as he understood his old kind Host Mr Benezet was remov’d to Germantown. My Answer was; You know my House, if you can make shift with its scanty Accommodations you will be most heartily welcome. He reply’d, that if I made that kind Offer for Christ’s sake, I should not miss of a Reward. And I return’d, Don’t let me be mistaken; it was not for Christ’s sake, but for your sake. One of our common Acquaintance jocosely remark’d, that knowing it to be the Custom of the Saints, when they receiv’d any favor, to shift the Burden of the Obligation from off their own Shoulders, and place it in Heaven, I had contriv’d to fix it on Earth.
The last time I saw Mr Whitefield was in London, when he consulted me about his Orphan House Concern, and his Purpose of appropriating it to the Establishment of a College.
He had a loud and clear Voice, and articulated his Words & Sentences so perfectly that he might be heard and understood at a great Distance, especially as his Auditories, however numerous, observ’d the most exact Silence. He preach’d one Evening from the Top of the Court House Steps, which are in the Middle of Market Street, and on the West Side of Second Street which crosses it at right angles. Both Streets were fill’d with his Hearers to a considerable Distance. Being among the hindmost in Market Street, I had the Curiosity to learn how far he could be heard, by retiring backwards down the Street towards the River, and I found his Voice distinct till I came near Front-Street, when some Noise in that Street, obscur’d it. Imagining then a Semi-Circle, of which my Distance should be the Radius, and that it were fill’d with Auditors, to each of whom I allow’d two square feet, I computed that he might well be heard by more than Thirty-Thousand. This reconcil’d me to the Newspaper Accounts of his having preach’d to 25000 People in the Fields, and to the ancient Histories of Generals haranguing whole Armies, of which I had sometimes doubted.
By hearing him often I came to distinguish easily between Sermons newly compos’d, & those which he had often preach’d in the Course of his Travels. His Delivery of the latter was so improv’d by frequent Repetitions, that every Accent, every Emphasis, every Modulation of Voice, was so perfectly well turn’d and well plac’d, that without being interested in the Subject, one could not help being pleas’d with the Discourse, a Pleasure of much the same kind with that receiv’d from an excellent Piece of Music. This is an Advantage itinerant Preachers have over those who are stationary: as the latter cannot well improve their Delivery of a Sermon by so many Rehearsals.
His Writing and Printing from time to time gave great Advantage to his Enemies. Unguarded Expressions and even erroneous Opinions delivered in Preaching might have been afterwards explain’d, or qualify’d by supposing others that might have accompany’d them; or they might have been deny’d; But litera scripta manet. Critics attack’d his Writings violently, and with so much Appearance of Reason as to diminish the Number of his Votaries, and prevent their Increase. So that I am of Opinion, if he had never written any thing he would have left behind him a much more numerous and important Sect. And his Reputation might in that case have been still growing, even after his Death; as there being nothing of his Writing on which to found a censure; and give him a lower Character, his Proselytes would be left at liberty to feign for him as great a Variety of Excellencies, as their enthusiastic Admiration might wish him to have possessed.
My Business was now continually augmenting, and my Circumstances growing daily easier, my Newspaper having become very profitable, as being for a time almost the only one in this and the neighboring Provinces. I experienc’d too the Truth of the Observation, that after getting the first hundred Pound, it is more easy to get the second: Money itself being of a prolific Nature.
The Partnership at Carolina having succeeded, I was encourag’d to engage in others, and to promote several of my Workmen who had behaved well, by establishing them with Printinghouses in different Colonies, on the same Terms with that in Carolina. Most of them did well, being enabled at the End of our Term, Six Years, to purchase the Types of me; and go on working for themselves, by which means several Families were raised. Partnerships often finish in Quarrels, but I was happy in this, that mine were all carry’d on and ended amicably; owing I think a good deal to the Precaution of having very explicitly settled in our Articles every thing to be done by or expected from each Partner, so that there was nothing to dispute, which Precaution I would therefore recommend to all who enter into Partnerships, for whatever Esteem Partners may have for & Confidence in each other at the time of the Contract, little Jealousies and Disgusts may arise, with Ideas of Inequality in the Care & Burden of the Business, &c. which are attended often with Breach of Friendship & of the Connection, perhaps with Lawsuits and other disagreeable Consequences.
I had on the whole abundant Reason to be satisfied with my being established in Pennsylvania. There were however two things that I regretted: There being no Provision for Defense, nor for a complete Education of Youth; No Militia nor any College. I therefore in 1743, drew up a Proposal for establishing an Academy; & at that time thinking the Revd Mr Peters, who was out of Employ, a fit Person to superintend such an Institution, I communicated the Project to him. But he having more profitable Views in the Service of the Proprietors, which succeeded, declin’d the Undertaking. And not knowing another at that time suitable for such a Trust, I let the Scheme lie a while dormant. I succeeded better the next Year, 1744, in proposing and establishing a Philosophical Society. The Paper I wrote for that purpose will be found among my Writings when collected.
With respect to Defense, Spain having been several Years at War against Britain, and being at length join’d by France, which brought us into greater Danger; and the labored & long-continued Endeavors of our Governor Thomas to prevail with our Quaker Assembly to pass a Militia Law, & make other Provisions for the Security of the Province having proved abortive, I determined to try what might be done by a voluntary Association of the People. To promote this I first wrote & published a Pamphlet, entitled, PLAIN TRUTH, in which I stated our defenseless Situation in strong Lights, with the Necessity of Union & Discipline for our Defense, and promis’d to propose in a few Days an Association to be generally signed for that purpose. The Pamphlet had a sudden & surprising Effect. I was call’d upon for the Instrument of Association: And having settled the Draft of it with a few Friends, I appointed a Meeting of the Citizens in the large Building before mentioned. The House was pretty full. I had prepared a Number of printed Copies, and provided Pens and Ink dispers’d all over the Room. I harangu’d them a little on the Subject, read the Paper & explain’d it, and then distributed the Copies, which were eagerly signed, not the least Objection being made. When the Company separated, & the Papers were collected we found above Twelve hundred Hands; and other Copies being dispers’d in the Country the Subscribers amounted at length to upwards of Ten Thousand. These all furnish’d themselves as soon as they could with Arms; form’d themselves into Companies, and Regiments, chose their own Officers, & met every Week to be instructed in the manual Exercise, and other Parts of military Discipline. The Women, by Subscriptions among themselves, provided Silk Colors, which they presented to the Companies, painted with different Devices and Mottos which I supplied. The Officers of the Companies composing the Philadelphia Regiment, being met, chose me for their Colonel; but conceiving myself unfit, I declin’d that Station, & recommended Mr Lawrence, a fine Person and Man of Influence, who was accordingly appointed. I then propos’d a Lottery to defray the Expense of Building a Battery below the Town, and furnishing it with Cannon. It filled expeditiously and the Battery was soon erected, the Merlons being fram’d of Logs & fill’d with Earth. We bought some old Cannon from Boston, but these not being sufficient, we wrote to England for more, soliciting at the same Time our Proprietaries for some Assistance, tho’ without much Expectation of obtaining it. Mean while Colonel Lawrence, William Allen, Abram Taylor, Esquires, and myself were sent to New York by the Associators, commission’d to borrow some Cannon of Governor Clinton. He at first refus’d us peremptorily: but at a Dinner with his Council where there was great Drinking of Madeira Wine, as the Custom at that Place then was, he soften’d by degrees, and said he would lend us Six. After a few more Bumpers he advanc’d to Ten. And at length he very good-naturedly conceded Eighteen. They were fine Cannon, 18 pounders, with their Carriages, which we soon transported and mounted on our Battery, where the Associators kept a nightly Guard while the War lasted: And among the rest I regularly took my Turn of Duty there as a common Soldier.