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DEAR SON, I HAVE
HAVE amused myself with collecting some little anecdotes of my family. You may remember the enquiries I made, when you were with me in England, among such of my relations as were then living; and the journey I undertook for that purpose. To be acquainted with the particulars of my parentage and life, many of which are unknown to you, I flatter myself, will afford the same pleasure to you as to me.
I shall relate them upon paper : it will be an agreeable employment of a week's uninterrupted leisure, which I promise myself during my present retircment in the country. There are also other motives which induce me to the undertaking. From the bosom of poverty and obscurity, in which I drew my first breath and spent my earlieft years, I have raised myself to a state of opulence and to some degree of celebrity in the world. A constant good fortune has attended me through every period of life to my present advanced age ; and my descendants may be desir
ous of learning what were the means of which I made use, and which, thanks to the assisting hand of providence, have proved so eminently successful. They may also, should they ever be placed in a similar situation, derive some advantage from
my narritive. When I reflect, as I frequently do, upon the felicity I have enjoyed, I sometimes say to myself, that, were the offer made
I would engage to run again, from beginning to end, the same carcer of life. All I would afk should be the privilege of an author, to correct, in a second edition, certain errors of the firft. I could wish, likewise, if įt were in my power, to change some trivial incidents and events for others more favourable, Were this however denied me, still would I not decline the offer. But since a repetition of life cannot take place, there is nothing which, in my opinion, so nearly resembles it, as to call to mind all its circumstances, and to render their remem. brance more durable, commit them to writing, By thus employing myself, I fhall yield to the inclination, so natural to old men, to talk of themselves and their exploits, and may freely follow my bent, without being tiresome to those, who, from respect to my age, might think themfelves obliged to listen to me ; as they will be at liberty to read me or not, as they please. In fine, (and I may wel! avow it,' fince nobody would believe me were I to deny it,) I shall perhaps, by this employment gratify my vanity. Scarcely indeed have I ever heard or read the introductory phrase, “ I may fay without vanity," but some striking and characteristic instance of
vanity has immediately followed. The generality of men hate yanity in others, however strongly they may be tinctured with it themselves; for myself, I pay obeisance to it wherever I meet with it, persuaded that it is advantageous, as well to the individual whom it governs, as to those who are within the sphere of its influence. Of consequence, it would, in many cases, not be. wholly absurd, that a man should count his vanity among the other sweets of life, and give thanks to providence for the blessing.
And here let me with all humility acknowa ledge, that to divine providence I am indebted for the felicity I have hitherto enjoyed. It is .that power alone which has furnished me with the means I have employed, and that has crowned them with success. My faith in this respect leads me to hope, though I cannot count upon it, that the divine goodness will still be exercised
towards me, either by prolonging the duration 7 of my happiness to the close of life, or by giv& ing me fortitude to support any melancholy re
verse, which may happen to me, as to so many bi
others. My future fortune is unknown but to - him in whose hand is our destiny, and who can make our very afflictions subfervient to our benefit.
One of my uncles, defirous, like myself, of collecting anecdotes of our family, gave me som: notes, from which I have derived many particu. lars refpecting our ancestors. From thefe I learn, that they had lived in the same village (Eaton in Northamptonshire) upon a freehold of about thirty acres, for the fpace at least of three hundred years. How long they had relded thero
tion book Icme feem
prior to that period, my uncle had been unable to discover; probably ever since the institution of surnames, when they took the appellation of Franklin ; which had formerly been the name of a particular order of individuals.*
This pretty estate would not have sufficed for their subsistence, had they not added the trade of blacksmith, which was perpetuated in the family down to my uncles time, the eldest son having been uniformly brought up to this em
* As a proof that Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in England, see Judge Fortescue, De laudibus legum Angliæ, written about the year 1412, in which is the following passage, to shew that good juries might easily be formed in any part of England :
Regio etiam illa, ita refperfa refertaque eft poffefforibus Sierrarum et agrorum, quod in ea, villula tam parva repe« riri non poterit, in qua non est miles, armiger, vel pater$ familias, qualis ibidem franklin vulgaritur nun-eupatur, " magnis ditatus poffeffionibus, nec non libere, tenentes " at alii valełti plurimi, suis patrimoniis fufficientes, ad “ faciendum juratam, in forma prænotata.”
“ Moreover, the fame country is so filled and replenish“ ed with landed menne, that therein so small a thorpe $6 cannot be found wherein dwelleth not a knight, an ela ~ quire, or such a housholder as is there commonly called - a franklin, enriched with great possessions; and also other “ freeholders and many yeoman, able for their livelihoods “ to make a jury in form aforementioned."
Old Translation. Chaucer too calls his country gentleman a Franklin, and, after describing his good housekeeping, thus characteriles
This worthy Franklin bore a purse of silk,
tics,too much fo perhaps for his situation. I lately found in London a collection which he had made of all the principal pamphlets relative to public affairs, from the year 1641 to 1717. Many volumes are wanting, as appears by the series of numbers; but there still remain eight in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and octavo. The collection had fallen into the hands of a second-hand bookseller, who, knowing me by having sold me some books, brought it to me. My uncle, it feems, had left it behind him on his departure for America, about fifty years ago. I found various notes of his writing in the margins. His grandson, Samuel, is now living at Boston.
Our humble family had early embraced the Reformation. They remained faithfully attached during the reign of Queen Mary, when they were in danger of being molested on account of their zeal against Popery. They had an English Bible, and, to conceal it the more securely, they conceived the project of fastening it, open, with pack-threads across the leaves, on the inside of the lid of a close-stool. When my great-grandfather wished to read to his family, he reversed the lid of the clofe-stool upon his knees, and paífed the leaves from one fide to the other, which were held down on each by the pack-thread. One of the children was stationed at the door to give notice if he saw the proctor (an officer of the spiritual court) make his appearance: in that case, the lid was restored to its place with the Bible concealed under it as before. I had this anecdote from my uncle Benjamin.
The whole family preserved its attachment to the Church of England till towards the close if *