The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Section Fifty Five
Section Fifty Five
I had hardly finish’d this Business, and got my Fort well stor’d with Provisions, when I receiv’d a Letter from the Governor, acquainting me that he had called the Assembly, and wish’d my Attendance there, if the Posture of Affairs on the Frontiers was such that my remaining there was no longer necessary. My Friends too of the Assembly pressing me by their Letters to be if possible at the Meeting, and my three intended Forts being now completed, and the Inhabitants contented to remain on their Farms under that Protection, I resolved to return. The more willingly as a New England Officer, Col. Clapham, experienc’d in Indian War, being on a Visit to our Establishment, consented to accept the Command. I gave him a Commission, and parading the Garrison had it read before them, and introduc’d him to them as an Officer who from his Skill in Military Affairs, was much more fit to command them than myself; and giving them a little Exhortation took my Leave. I was escorted as far as Bethlehem, where I rested a few Days, to recover from the Fatigue I had undergone. The first Night being in a good Bed, I could hardly sleep, it was so different from my hard Lodging on the Floor of our Hut at Gnaden, wrapped only in a Blanket or two.
While at Bethlehem, I inquir’d a Little into the Practices of the Moravians. Some of them had accompanied me, and all were very kind to me. I found they work’d for a common Stock, eat at common Tables, and slept in common Dormitories, great Numbers together. In the Dormitories I observ’d Loopholes at certain Distances all along just under the Ceiling, which I thought judiciously plac’d for Change of Air. I was at their Church, where I was entertain’d with good Music, the Organ being accompanied with Violins, Hautboys, Flutes, Clarinets, &c. I understood that their Sermons were not usually preached to mix’d Congregations, of Men Women and Children, as is our common Practice; but that they assembled sometimes the married Men, at other times their Wives, then the Young Men, the young Women, and the little Children, each Division by itself. The Sermon I heard was to the latter, who came in and were plac’d in Rows on Benches, the Boys under the Conduct of a young Man their Tutor, and the Girls conducted by a young Woman. The Discourse seem’d well adapted to their Capacities, and was deliver’d in a pleasing familiar Manner, coaxing them as it were to be good. They behav’d very orderly, but look’d pale and unhealthy, which made me suspect they were kept too much within-doors, or not allow’d sufficient Exercise. I inquir’d concerning the Moravian Marriages, whether the Report was true that they were by Lot? I was told that Lots were us’d only in particular Cases. That generally when a young Man found himself dispos’d to marry, he inform’d the Elders of his Class, who consulted the Elder Ladies that govern’d the young Women. As these Elders of the different Sexes were well acquainted with the Tempers & Dispositions of their respective Pupils, they could best judge what Matches were suitable, and their Judgments were generally acquiesc’d in. But if for example it should happen that two or three young Women were found to be equally proper for the young Man, the Lot was then recurr’d to. I objected, If the Matches are not made by the mutual Choice of the Parties, some of them may chance to be very unhappy. And so they may, answer’d my Informer, if you let the Parties choose for themselves.—Which indeed I could not deny.