The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Section Twenty Six
Section Twenty Six
We sail’d from Gravesend on the 23d of July 1726. For the Incidents of the Voyage, I refer you to my Journal, where you will find them all minutely related. Perhaps the most important Part of that Journal is the Plan to be found in it which I formed at Sea, for regulating my future Conduct in Life. It is the more remarkable, as being form’d when I was so young, and yet being pretty faithfully adhered to quite thro’ to old Age. We landed in Philadelphia the 11th of October, where I found sundry Alterations. Keith was no longer Governor, being superseded by Major Gordon: I met him walking the Streets as a common Citizen. He seem’d a little asham’d at seeing me, but pass’d without saying any thing. I should have been as much asham’d at seeing Miss Read, had not her Friends, despairing with Reason of my Return, after the Receipt of my Letter, persuaded her to marry another, one Rogers, a Potter, which was done in my Absence. With him however she was never happy, and soon parted from him, refusing to cohabit with him, or bear his Name It being now said that he had another Wife. He was a worthless Fellow tho’ an excellent Workman which was the Temptation to her Friends. He got into Debt, and ran away in 1727 or 28. Went to the West Indies, and died there. Keimer had got a better House, a Shop well supply’d with Stationery, plenty of new Types, a number of Hands tho’ none good, and seem’d to have a great deal of Business.
Mr Denham took a Store in Water Street, where we open’d our Goods. I attended the Business diligently, studied Accounts, and grew in a little Time expert at selling. We lodg’d and boarded together, he counsell’d me as a Father, having a sincere Regard for me: I respected & lov’d him: and we might have gone on together very happily: But in the Beginning of Feby 1726/7 when I had just pass’d my 21st Year, we both were taken ill. My Distemper was a Pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off: I suffered a good deal, gave up the Point in my own mind, & was rather disappointed when I found myself recovering; regretting in some degree that I must now some time or other have all that disagreeable Work to do over again. I forget what his Distemper was. It held him a long time, and at length carried him off. He left me a small Legacy in a nuncupative Will, as a Token of his Kindness for me, and he left me once more to the wide World. For the Store was taken into the Care of his Executors, and my Employment under him ended: My Brother-in-law Homes, being now at Philadelphia, advis’d my Return to my Business. And Keimer tempted me with an Offer of large Wages by the Year to come & take the Management of his Printinghouse, that he might better attend his Stationer’s Shop. I had heard a bad Character of him in London, from his Wife & her Friends, & was not fond of having any more to do with him. I try’d for farther Employment as a Merchant’s Clerk; but not readily meeting with any, I clos’d again with Keimer.
I found in his House these Hands; Hugh Meredith a Welsh-Pennsylvania, 30 Years of Age, bred to Country Work: honest, sensible, had a great deal of solid Observation, was something of a Reader, but given to drink: Stephen Potts, a young Country Man of full Age, bred to the Same: of uncommon natural Parts, & great Wit & Humor, but a little idle. These he had agreed with at extreme low Wages, per Week, to be rais’d a Shilling every 3 Months, as they would deserve by improving in their Business, & the Expectation of these high Wages to come on hereafter was what he had drawn them in with. Meredith was to work at Press, Potts at Bookbinding, which he by Agreement, was to teach them, tho’ he knew neither one nor t’other. John —— a wild Irishman brought up to no Business, whose Service for 4 Years Keimer had purchas’d from the Captain of a Ship. He too was to be made a Pressman. George Webb, an Oxford Scholar, whose Time for 4 Years he had likewise bought, intending him for a Compositor: of whom more presently. And David Harry, a Country Boy, whom he had taken Apprentice. I soon perceiv’d that the Intention of engaging me at Wages so much higher than he had been us’d to give, was to have these raw cheap Hands form’d thro’ me, and as soon as I had instructed them, then, they being all articled to him, he should be able to do without me. I went on however, very cheerfully; put his Printinghouse in Order, which had been in great Confusion, and brought his Hands by degrees to mind their Business and to do it better.