The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Section Thirty
George Webb, who had found a Female 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 employ 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 Breintnal continu’d some Months. By this means the Attention of the Public was fix’d on that Paper, & Keimer’s 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 extremely 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 Compositor, 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 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 learned a little to scribble. Another was, that the leading Men, seeing a Newspaper 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 Public 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.