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Young reader, reflect as you peruse the following pages, that the richest soil requires the aid of cultivation to render it usefully productive that the most capacious mind, without a diligent application to books and reflection, will never attain to its proper state of expansion; and that even the electrical genius of Franklin would never have soared amidst the clouds of heaven, and flashed with scintillations more luminous than those elicited by his own conductors, without the assistance of labor and investigation. A model is here presented to you, for a successful imitation of which, you can only rely upon the most scrupulous improvement of the same means by which the author of these memoirs obtained his celebrity. Think with the deliberation, speak with the prudence, and act with the decision of young Franklin.
The Work, of which the following is a new impression, consists of two parts: The Life of Franklin, written by his own hand, and a Collection of his Miscellaneous Pieces, calculated both to amuse and improve the reader. It is republished with care and accuracy. After the extensive circulation it has had, and the high reputation it has enjoyed, any further recommendation of it would be superfluous. The pen which produced it is its own best critic, and the manner in which it is executed its best recommendation.
DR. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, &c
MY DEAR SON,
I 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 paren tage 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 retirement in the country. There are also other motives which induce me to the undertaking. From the bosom of poverty and obscurity, I drew my first breath and spent my earliest years, I have raised myself to a state of ope lence 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 desirous 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 situa tion, derive some advantage from my narrative,
When I reflect, as I frequently do, upon the feli city I have enjoyed, I sometimes say to my self, that, were the offer made me I would engage to run again, from beginning to end, the same career of life. All I would ask should be the privilege of an author, to correct, in a second edition, certain errors of the first. I could wish, likewise, if it were in my power, to change some trivial incidents and events for others more favorable. 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 remembrance more durable, commit them to writing. By thus employing myself, I shall 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 themselves obliged to listen to me; as they will be at liberty to read me or not as they please. In finé -and I may well avow it, since 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, 4 "I may say without vanity," but some striking and characteristic instance of vanity has immediately followed. The generality of men hate vanity in others, however strongly they may be tinctured with it themselves; for myself, I pay obeisance tỏ 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 acknowledge, 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 prolong ing the duration of my happiness to the close of life, or by giving me fortitude to support any melancho. ly reverse, which may happen to me, as to so many others. My future fortune is unknown but to him in whose hand is our destiny, and who can make our very afflictions subservient to our benefit.
One of my uncles, desirous, like myself, of collecting anecdotes of our family, gave me some notes, from which I have derived many particulars respecting our ancestors. From these I learn, that they had lived in the same village (Eaton in Northamptonshire) upon a freehold of about thirty acres, for the space at least of three hundred years. How long they had resided there prior to that period, my uncle had been unable to discover; probably ever since the institution of surnames, when they took the ap pellation of Franklin, which had formerly been the name of a particular order of individuals.*
* As a proof that Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in England, see Judge Fortescue, Delaudibus legum Anglia, 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 respersa resertaque est pos sessoribus terrarum et agrorum, quod in ea, villula tam parva reperiri non poterit, in qua non est miles, rami
This petty estate would not have sufficed for their subsistance, had they net added the trade of black smith, which was perpetuated in the family down to my uncle's time, the eldest son having been uniformly brought up to this employment: a custom which both he and my father observed with respect to their eldest sons.
In the researches I made at Eaton, I found no account of their births, marriages, and deaths, earlier than the year 1555; the parish register not extending farther back than that period. This register informed me, that I was the youngest son of the youngest branch of the family, counting five generations. My grandfather, Thomas, who was born
"ger velpater-familias, qualis ibidem franklin vulgari"tur nuncupatur, magnis ditatus possessionibus, nee "non libere, tenentes et alii valecti plurimi, suis pa❝trimoniis sufficientes, ad faciendum juratam, in for"ma prænotata."
"Moreover, the same country is filled and so replen❝ished with land menne, that therein so small a thope "cannot be found wherein dwelleth not a knight, an
esquire, or such a housholder as is there commonly "called a franklin, enriched with great possessions; " and also other freeholders and many yeomen, able "for their livelihoods to make a jury in form afore mentioned." OLD TRANSLATION.
Chaucer too calls his country gentleman a Franklin, and, after describing his good housekeeper, thus cha Jacterises him :
This worthy Franklin bore a purse of silk,