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FRANKLIN, (BENJAMIN) the American statesman and philosopher, was born in Boston, Massachu. setts, January 17th, 1706. His father Josiah, who was a native of Nottinghamshire, England, finding himself subjected to various hardships, on account of his attachment to the religious opinions of the Nonconformists, quitted his native country together with his wife and three children, and about the year 1682, found an asylum from persecution in New-England. The trade, to which he had been brought up, was that. of a dyer ; but finding it very unprofitable in this country, he soon after his arrival took up that of a tallow chandler. By his first wife he had seven children ; and by the second ten, of whom Benjamin, the subject of this article, was the eighth
In the account which Dr. Franklin gives of his father, he represents him as a pious, prudent and inge. nious man, endowed with a good mechanical genius, and capable, on occasion, of using the tools of other workmen with great dexterity. He also possessed a sound understanding and solid judgment, and was universally esteemed by his neighbours as a man of great probity and discernment. His mother was a virtuous and discreet woman, who united her best endeavours with her husband, to improve and form the minds of their children, and to make them useful and virtuous members of society. Such were the parents, such the instructors, to whom the world was indebted for this benefactor of the human race ; for from them, he, in his younger years, imbibed ihose principles of moral rectitude, and that aversion from arbitrary power, for which, through the whole of a long life, he afterwards became so eminently conspicuous.
Young Franklin, having been carly designed for the ministry, was, at the age of eight years, sent to the grammar-school of Boston, from which, notwithstandstanding his uncommon progress in the latin language, he was removed at the end of one year, to'a school for
of a liberal but poorly pro Franklin. ved by his
writing and arithmetic; his father considering, that, with his large family, he could ill afford the expences of a liberal education, and that persons so educated were often but poorly provided for.
At the age of ten, Franklin was taken from school, and, for some time, employed by his father, to assist him in his business. The trade of a tallow chandler was, however, the object of his aversion ; and as his dislike continued to encrease, his father apprehensive, lest he should run off to sea, for to that kind of life he had evinced a great predilection, endeavoured to fix his inclinations on land, by taking him to the shops of different artificers. Hence he acquired a fondness for seeing good workmen employed at their business, and was enabled to construct machines for his experiments, which, it would have been extremely difficult for the best mechanics to finish exactly according to his wishes. The trade of a cutJer, was at last fixed for Franklin : but some disagree. ment arising about a fee, determined his father to relinquish his intention.
He had early discovered a great fondness for reading, and regularly expended what little money he could procure, in the purchase of books. His father observing this propensity, at last resolved to make him a printer, and he accordingly bound him as an apprentice to his brother James, at the age of 12 years. He soon made great proficiency in the business and found himself extremely happy, as he was enabled to gratify his favorite inclination for reading, by borrowing books from the apprentices of book-sellers, with whom he become acquainted. Franklin now wrote several little poetical pieces, and his brother thinking that this talent might be turned to advantage, persuaded him to write two ballads; one of which was called the Light-House Tragedy, and was founded on a melancholy accident, which had lately happened, viz. the drowning of Captain Worthilake and his two daughters ; and the other a sailor song, on the capture
of Tench or Blackbeard, the noted pirate. Although it is probable, that these first productions of our au thor might afford no presage of his future greatness, yet a perusal of them would be highly satisfactory. They are now, however, no where to be found. Dr. Franklin himself used to say, that they were wretched stuff, in the style of Grub-street ballads. However this may be, they were read with great avidity, and much applauded. This raised the vanity of our young author, and he probably would have gone on in the service of the muses, had not his father, by criticising bis performances, and shewing him the unprofitableness of poetry, turned his thoughts to pursuits, which, though less pleasing, enabled him to render, services to maukind of a more essential and permanent nature. : About this time, our author had formed an intimate acquaintance wih a lad named John Collins, who was, like himself, remarkably fond of reading. For the sake of mutual improvement, it was usual for these two friends to dispute upon various subjects. At last a topic was started, which produced a longer discussion than usual; and as they parted without determining the point, and business not permitting them to see each other frequently, Franklin committed his arguments to writing and sent them to Collins, who replied in the same way. Several letters had passed between them, when the papers fell into the hands of Franklin's father, who, without entering into the merits of the cause, took occasion to point out to his son, that, though he excelled his antagonist in orthography and punctuation, he was much interior to him in ele. gance of expression, arrangement and perspicuity. Convinced of the justice of his father's remarks, he determined to improve his manner of writing. Fortunately the third volume of the Spectator fell in his way; and as the style appeared to him to be excellent, he resolved to imitate it. His method of doing this was crowned with the desired success: we therefore conceive it may be useful, at least to our young readers, if we communicate it. After reading a paper over, he took short notes of the sentiments. These he laid by for a few days, and then without opening the book endeavoured to complete the paper, by expressing the sentiments at length. Finding himself sometimes at a loss for words, he thought he might remedy that deficiency, by again having recourse to making verses, in which the constant want of words of the same import, but of different length and sound to suit the rhyme, obliges a person to seek for a varie. ty of words, and to impress this variety upon the mind, He accordingly turned some of the tales of the Spectators into verse, and after some time into prose again. He sometimes threw his hints into a confused state, and, after a few weeks, endeavored to reduce them to order. He thus acquired a method of expressing his thoughts; and by comparing his composition with the original, was enabled to correct any inacuracy in the style or arrangement. Sometimes, he conceived, that, in a few instances, he had improved upon the language and method of the original, and this encouraged him to persevere in his attempts to be a fine wri. ter. The world knows how completely he succeeded, and from this account, we may not only learn how he acquired that beautiful and unadorned simplicity of style, which so remarkably characterizes all his writings, but also, what steps others, (particularly such as have not the means of obtaining a systematic education,) should pursue, to acquire a degree of literary eminence.
Every moment of time, which Franklin could spare from the duties of his profession, was entirely devoted to study. Often did the silent midnight hour bear witness to his labours, and when obliged to return a book early in the morning, his eyes remained stran. gers to sleep during the night. When he was about sixteen years of age, from the perusal of a perform. ance of Tryon, he was persuaded of the superior advantages of a vegetable diet, and determined to adopt