The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Section Eleven
One of the Pieces in our Newspaper, on some political Point which I have now forgotten, gave Offense to the Assembly. He was taken up, censur’d and imprison’d for a Month by the Speaker’s Warrant, Isuppose because he would not discover his Author. I too was taken up & examin’d before the Council; but tho’ I did not give them any Satisfaction, they contented themselves with admonishing me, and dismiss’d me; considering me perhaps as an Apprentice who was bound to keep his Master’s Secrets. During my Brother’s Confinement, which I resented a good deal, notwithstanding our private Differences, I had the Management of the Paper, and I made bold to give our Rulers some Rubs in it, which my Brother took very kindly, while others began to consider me in an unfavorable Light, as a young Genius that had a Turn for Libelling & Satire. My Brother’s Discharge was accompany’d with an Order of the House, (a very odd one) that James Franklin should no longer print the Paper called the New England Courant. There was a Consultation held in our Printinghouse among his Friends what he should do in this Case. Some propos’d to evade the Order by changing the Name of the Paper; but my Brother seeing Inconveniences in that, it was finally concluded on as a better Way, to let it be printed for the future under the Name of Benjamin Franklin. And to avoid the Censure of the Assembly that might fall on him, as still printing it by his Apprentice, the Contrivance was, that my old Indenture should be return’d to me with a full Discharge on the Back of it, to be shown on Occasion; but to secure to him the Benefit of my Service I was to sign new Indentures for the Remainder of the Term, which were to be kept private. A very flimsy Scheme it was, but however it was immediately executed, and the Paper went on accordingly under my Name for several Months. At length a fresh Difference arising between my Brother and me, I took upon me to assert my Freedom, presuming that he would not venture to produce the new Indentures. It was not fair in me to take this Advantage, and this I therefore reckon one of the first Errata of my Life: But the Unfairness of it weigh’d little with me, when under the Impressions of Resentment, for the Blows his Passion too often urg’d him to bestow upon me. Tho’ he was otherwise not an ill-natured Man: Perhaps I was too saucy & provoking.
When he found I would leave him, he took care to prevent my getting Employment in any other Printinghouse of the Town, by going round & speaking to every Master, who accordingly refus’d to give me Work. I then thought of going to New York as the nearest Place where there was a Printer: and I was the rather inclin’d to leave Boston, when I reflected that I had already made myself a little obnoxious to the governing Party; & from the arbitrary Proceedings of the Assembly in my Brother’s Case it was likely I might if I stay’d soon bring myself into Scrapes; and farther that my indiscreet Disputations about Religion begun to make me pointed at with Horror by good People, as an Infidel or Atheist. I determin’d on the Point: but my Father now siding with my Brother, I was sensible that if I attempted to go openly, Means would be used to prevent me. My Friend Collins therefore undertook to manage a little for me. He agreed with the Captain of a New York Sloop for my Passage, under the Notion of my being a young Acquaintance of his that had got a naughty Girl with Child, whose Friends would compel me to marry her, and therefore I could not appear or come away publicly. So I sold some of my Books to raise a little Money, Was taken on board privately, and as we had a fair Wind in three Days I found myself in New York near 300 Miles from home, a Boy of but 17, without the least Recommendation to or Knowledge of any Person in the Place, and with very little Money in my Pocket.