The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Part 3 out of 4
still growing, even after his death, as there being nothing of his
writing on which to found a censure and give him a lower character,
his proselytes would be left at liberty to feign for him as great
a variety of excellence as their enthusiastic admiration might wish
him to have possessed.
My business was now continually augmenting, and my circumstances growing
daily easier, my newspaper having become very profitable, as being
for a time almost the only one in this and the neighbouring provinces.
I experienced, too, the truth of the observation, "that after
getting the first hundred pound, it is more easy to get the second,"
money itself being of a prolific nature.
The partnership at Carolina having succeeded, I was encourag'd
to engage in others, and to promote several of my workmen,
who had behaved well, by establishing them with printing-houses
in different colonies, on the same terms with that in Carolina.
Most of them did well, being enabled at the end of our term, six years,
to purchase the types of me and go on working for themselves,
by which means several families were raised. Partnerships often
finish in quarrels; but I was happy in this, that mine were all
carried on and ended amicably, owing, I think, a good deal to
the precaution of having very explicitly settled, in our articles,
every thing to be done by or expected from each partner, so that
there was nothing to dispute, which precaution I would therefore
recommend to all who enter into partnerships; for, whatever esteem
partners may have for, and confidence in each other at the time
of the contract, little jealousies and disgusts may arise, with ideas
of inequality in the care and burden of the business, etc., which
are attended often with breach of friendship and of the connection,
perhaps with lawsuits and other disagreeable consequences.
I had, on the whole, abundant reason to be satisfied with my being
established in Pennsylvania. There were, however, two things
that I regretted, there being no provision for defense, nor for
a compleat education of youth; no militia, nor any college.
I therefore, in 1743, drew up a proposal for establishing an academy;
and at that time, thinking the Reverend Mr. Peters, who was out
of employ, a fit person to superintend such an institution,
I communicated the project to him; but he, having more profitable
views in the service of the proprietaries, which succeeded,
declin'd the undertaking; and, not knowing another at that time
suitable for such a trust, I let the scheme lie a while dormant.
I succeeded better the next year, 1744, in proposing and establishing
a Philosophical Society. The paper I wrote for that purpose will
be found among my writings, when collected.
With respect to defense, Spain having been several years at war
against Great Britain, and being at length join'd by France,
which brought us into great danger; and the laboured and long-continued
endeavour of our governor, Thomas, to prevail with our Quaker Assembly
to pass a militia law, and make other provisions for the security
of the province, having proved abortive, I determined to try what might
be done by a voluntary association of the people. To promote this,
I first wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled PLAIN TRUTH, in which I
stated our defenceless situation in strong lights, with the necessity
of union and discipline for our defense, and promis'd to propose in
a few days an association, to be generally signed for that purpose.
The pamphlet had a sudden and surprising effect. I was call'd upon
for the instrument of association, and having settled the draft
of it with a few friends, I appointed a meeting of the citizens
in the large building before mentioned. The house was pretty full;
I had prepared a number of printed copies, and provided pens and ink
dispers'd all over the room. I harangued them a little on the subject,
read the paper, and explained it, and then distributed the copies,
which were eagerly signed, not the least objection being made.
When the company separated, and the papers were collected, we found
above twelve hundred hands; and, other copies being dispersed
in the country, the subscribers amounted at length to upward
of ten thousand. These all furnished themselves as soon as they
could with arms, formed themselves into companies and regiments,
chose their own officers, and met every week to be instructed
in the manual exercise, and other parts of military discipline.
The women, by subscriptions among themselves, provided silk colors,
which they presented to the companies, painted with different devices
and mottos, which I supplied.
The officers of the companies composing the Philadelphia regiment,
being met, chose me for their colonel; but, conceiving myself unfit,
I declin'd that station, and recommended Mr. Lawrence, a fine
person, and man of influence, who was accordingly appointed.
I then propos'd a lottery to defray the expense of building
a battery below the town, and furnishing it with cannon.
It filled expeditiously, and the battery was soon erected, the merlons
being fram'd of logs and fill'd with earth. We bought some old
cannon from Boston, but, these not being sufficient, we wrote to
England for more, soliciting, at the same time, our proprietaries
for some assistance, tho' without much expectation of obtaining it.
Meanwhile, Colonel Lawrence, William Allen, Abram Taylor,
Esqr., and myself were sent to New York by the associators,
commission'd to borrow some cannon of Governor Clinton. He at first
refus'd us peremptorily; but at dinner with his council, where there
was great drinking of Madeira wine, as the custom of that place
then was, he softened by degrees, and said he would lend us six.
After a few more bumpers he advanc'd to ten; and at length he
very good-naturedly conceded eighteen. They were fine cannon,
eighteen-pounders, with their carriages, which we soon transported
and mounted on our battery, where the associators kept a nightly
guard while the war lasted, and among the rest I regularly took
my turn of duty there as a common soldier.
My activity in these operations was agreeable to the governor and council;
they took me into confidence, and I was consulted by them in every
measure wherein their concurrence was thought useful to the association.
Calling in the aid of religion, I propos'd to them the proclaiming
a fast, to promote reformation, and implore the blessing of Heaven on
our undertaking. They embrac'd the motion; but, as it was the first
fast ever thought of in the province, the secretary had no precedent
from which to draw the proclamation. My education in New England,
where a fast is proclaimed every year, was here of some advantage:
I drew it in the accustomed stile, it was translated into German,
printed in both languages, and divulg'd thro' the province. This gave
the clergy of the different sects an opportunity of influencing their
congregations to join in the association, and it would probably have
been general among all but Quakers if the peace had not soon interven'd.
It was thought by some of my friends that, by my activity in
these affairs, I should offend that sect, and thereby lose my interest
in the Assembly of the province, where they formed a great majority.
A young gentleman who had likewise some friends in the House,
and wished to succeed me as their clerk, acquainted me that it
was decided to displace me at the next election; and he, therefore,
in good will, advis'd me to resign, as more consistent with my honour
than being turn'd out. My answer to him was, that I had read or heard
of some public man who made it a rule never to ask for an office,
and never to refuse one when offer'd to him. "I approve,"
says I, "of his rule, and will practice it with a small addition;
I shall never ask, never refuse, nor ever resign an office.
If they will have my office of clerk to dispose of to another,
they shall take it from me. I will not, by giving it up, lose my
right of some time or other making reprisals on my adversaries."
I heard, however, no more of this; I was chosen again unanimously
as usual at the next election. Possibly, as they dislik'd my late
intimacy with the members of council, who had join'd the governors
in all the disputes about military preparations, with which the House
had long been harass'd, they might have been pleas'd if I would
voluntarily have left them; but they did not care to displace me
on account merely of my zeal for the association, and they could
not well give another reason.
Indeed I had some cause to believe that the defense of the country
was not disagreeable to any of them, provided they were not requir'd
to assist in it. And I found that a much greater number of them
than I could have imagined, tho' against offensive war, were clearly
for the defensive. Many pamphlets pro and con were publish'd
on the subject, and some by good Quakers, in favour of defense,
which I believe convinc'd most of their younger people.
A transaction in our fire company gave me some insight into their
prevailing sentiments. It had been propos'd that we should encourage
the scheme for building a battery by laying out the present stock,
then about sixty pounds, in tickets of the lottery. By our rules,
no money could be dispos'd of till the next meeting after the proposal.
The company consisted of thirty members, of which twenty-two
were Quakers, and eight only of other persuasions. We eight
punctually attended the meeting; but, tho' we thought that some of
the Quakers would join us, we were by no means sure of a majority.
Only one Quaker, Mr. James Morris, appear'd to oppose the measure.
He expressed much sorrow that it had ever been propos'd, as he said
Friends were all against it, and it would create such discord as might
break up the company. We told him that we saw no reason for that;
we were the minority, and if Friends were against the measure,
and outvoted us, we must and should, agreeably to the usage
of all societies, submit. When the hour for business arriv'd
it was mov'd to put the vote; he allow'd we might then do it
by the rules, but, as he could assure us that a number of members
intended to be present for the purpose of opposing it, it would
be but candid to allow a little time for their appearing.
While we were disputing this, a waiter came to tell me two gentlemen
below desir'd to speak with me. I went down, and found they were two
of our Quaker members. They told me there were eight of them assembled
at a tavern just by; that they were determin'd to come and vote with us
if there should be occasion, which they hop'd would not be the case,
and desir'd we would not call for their assistance if we could do
without it, as their voting for such a measure might embroil them
with their elders and friends. Being thus secure of a majority,
I went up, and after a little seeming hesitation, agreed to a delay
of another hour. This Mr. Morris allow'd to be extreamly fair.
Not one of his opposing friends appear'd, at which he express'd
great surprize; and, at the expiration of the hour, we carry'd
the resolution eight to one; and as, of the twenty-two Quakers,
eight were ready to vote with us, and thirteen, by their absence,
manifested that they were not inclin'd to oppose the measure,
I afterward estimated the proportion of Quakers sincerely against
defense as one to twenty-one only; for these were all regular members
of that society, and in good reputation among them, and had due
notice of what was propos'd at that meeting.
The honorable and learned Mr. Logan, who had always been of that sect,
was one who wrote an address to them, declaring his approbation of
defensive war, and supporting his opinion by many strong arguments.
He put into my hands sixty pounds to be laid out in lottery tickets
for the battery, with directions to apply what prizes might be drawn
wholly to that service. He told me the following anecdote of his
old master, William Penn, respecting defense. He came over from England,
when a young man, with that proprietary, and as his secretary.
It was war-time, and their ship was chas'd by an armed vessel,
suppos'd to be an enemy. Their captain prepar'd for defense;
but told William Penn and his company of Quakers, that he did
not expect their assistance, and they might retire into the cabin,
which they did, except James Logan, who chose to stay upon deck,
and was quarter'd to a gun. The suppos'd enemy prov'd a friend,
so there was no fighting; but when the secretary went down to
communicate the intelligence, William Penn rebuk'd him severely for
staying upon deck, and undertaking to assist in defending the vessel,
contrary to the principles of Friends, especially as it had not been
required by the captain. This reproof, being before all the company,
piqu'd the secretary, who answer'd, "I being thy servant, why did
thee not order me to come down? But thee was willing enough that I
should stay and help to fight the ship when thee thought there
My being many years in the Assembly, the majority of which were
constantly Quakers, gave me frequent opportunities of seeing
the embarrassment given them by their principle against war,
whenever application was made to them, by order of the crown,
to grant aids for military purposes. They were unwilling to offend
government, on the one hand, by a direct refusal; and their friends,
the body of the Quakers, on the other, by a compliance contrary
to their principles; hence a variety of evasions to avoid complying,
and modes of disguising the compliance when it became unavoidable.
The common mode at last was, to grant money under the phrase of its
being "for the king's use," and never to inquire how it was applied.
But, if the demand was not directly from the crown, that phrase was
found not so proper, and some other was to be invented. As, when powder
was wanting (I think it was for the garrison at Louisburg), and the
government of New England solicited a grant of some from Pennsilvania,
which was much urg'd on the House by Governor Thomas, they could
not grant money to buy powder, because that was an ingredient of war;
but they voted an aid to New England of three thousand pounds,
to he put into the hands of the governor, and appropriated it
for the purchasing of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain. Some of
the council, desirous of giving the House still further embarrassment,
advis'd the governor not to accept provision, as not being the thing
he had demanded; but be reply'd, "I shall take the money, for I
understand very well their meaning; other grain is gunpowder,"
which he accordingly bought, and they never objected to it.<10>
<10> See the votes.--[Marg. note.]
It was in allusion to this fact that, when in our fire company we
feared the success of our proposal in favour of the lottery, and I
had said to my friend Mr. Syng, one of our members, "If we fail,
let us move the purchase of a fire-engine with the money; the Quakers
can have no objection to that; and then, if you nominate me and I
you as a committee for that purpose, we will buy a great gun,
which is certainly a fire-engine." "I see," says he, "you have
improv'd by being so long in the Assembly; your equivocal project
would be just a match for their wheat or other grain."
These embarrassments that the Quakers suffer'd from having
establish'd and published it as one of their principles that
no kind of war was lawful, and which, being once published,
they could not afterwards, however they might change their minds,
easily get rid of, reminds me of what I think a more prudent
conduct in another sect among us, that of the Dunkers. I was
acquainted with one of its founders, Michael Welfare, soon after it
appear'd. He complain'd to me that they were grievously calumniated
by the zealots of other persuasions, and charg'd with abominable
principles and practices, to which they were utter strangers.
I told him this had always been the case with new sects, and that,
to put a stop to such abuse, I imagin'd it might be well to publish
the articles of their belief, and the rules of their discipline.
He said that it had been propos'd among them, but not agreed to,
for this reason: "When we were first drawn together as a society,"
says he, "it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see
that some doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, were errors;
and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths.
From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther light,
and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing.
Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression,
and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge;
and we fear that, if we should once print our confession of faith,
we should feel ourselves as if bound and confin'd by it, and perhaps
be unwilling to receive farther improvement, and our successors still
more so, as conceiving what we their elders and founders had done, to be
something sacred, never to be departed from."
This modesty in a sect is perhaps a singular instance in the history
of mankind, every other sect supposing itself in possession
of all truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong;
like a man traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance
before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as
those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side,
but near him all appears clear, tho' in truth he is as much
in the fog as any of them. To avoid this kind of embarrassment,
the Quakers have of late years been gradually declining the public
service in the Assembly and in the magistracy, choosing rather
to quit their power than their principle.
In order of time, I should have mentioned before, that having, in 1742,
invented an open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the same
time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in entering,
I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early
friends, who, having an iron-furnace, found the casting of the plates
for these stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in demand.
To promote that demand, I wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled "An
Account of the new-invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces; wherein their
Construction and Manner of Operation is particularly explained;
their Advantages above every other Method of warming Rooms demonstrated;
and all Objections that have been raised against the Use of them
answered and obviated," etc. This pamphlet had a good effect.
Gov'r. Thomas was so pleas'd with the construction of this stove,
as described in it, that he offered to give me a patent for the sole
vending of them for a term of years; but I declin'd it from a principle
which has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz., That, as we
enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be
glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours;
and this we should do freely and generously.
An ironmonger in London however, assuming a good deal of my pamphlet,
and working it up into his own, and making some small changes
in the machine, which rather hurt its operation, got a patent
for it there, and made, as I was told, a little fortune by it.
And this is not the only instance of patents taken out for my
inventions by others, tho' not always with the same success, which I
never contested, as having no desire of profiting by patents myself,
and hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces in very many houses,
both of this and the neighbouring colonies, has been, and is,
a great saving of wood to the inhabitants.
Peace being concluded, and the association business therefore at
an end, I turn'd my thoughts again to the affair of establishing
an academy. The first step I took was to associate in the design
a number of active friends, of whom the Junto furnished a good part;
the next was to write and publish a pamphlet, entitled Proposals
Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania. This I
distributed among the principal inhabitants gratis; and as soon
as I could suppose their minds a little prepared by the perusal
of it, I set on foot a subscription for opening and supporting
an academy; it was to be paid in quotas yearly for five years;
by so dividing it, I judg'd the subscription might be larger,
and I believe it was so, amounting to no less, if I remember right,
than five thousand pounds.
In the introduction to these proposals, I stated their publication,
not as an act of mine, but of some publick-spirited gentlemen,
avoiding as much as I could, according to my usual rule, the presenting
myself to the publick as the author of any scheme for their benefit.
The subscribers, to carry the project into immediate execution,
chose out of their number twenty-four trustees, and appointed
Mr. Francis, then attorney-general, and myself to draw up constitutions
for the government of the academy; which being done and signed,
a house was hired, masters engag'd, and the schools opened, I think,
in the same year, 1749.
The scholars increasing fast, the house was soon found too small,
and we were looking out for a piece of ground, properly situated,
with intention to build, when Providence threw into our way a large
house ready built, which, with a few alterations, might well
serve our purpose. This was the building before mentioned,
erected by the hearers of Mr. Whitefield, and was obtained for us
in the following manner.
It is to be noted that the contributions to this building being
made by people of different sects, care was taken in the nomination
of trustees, in whom the building and ground was to be vested,
that a predominancy should not be given to any sect, lest in time that
predominancy might be a means of appropriating the whole to the use
of such sect, contrary to the original intention. It was therefore
that one of each sect was appointed, viz., one Church-of-England man,
one Presbyterian, one Baptist, one Moravian, etc., those, in case
of vacancy by death, were to fill it by election from among
the contributors. The Moravian happen'd not to please his colleagues,
and on his death they resolved to have no other of that sect.
The difficulty then was, how to avoid having two of some other sect,
by means of the new choice.
Several persons were named, and for that reason not agreed to.
At length one mention'd me, with the observation that I was merely
an honest man, and of no sect at all, which prevail'd with them
to chuse me. The enthusiasm which existed when the house was built
had long since abated, and its trustees had not been able to procure
fresh contributions for paying the ground-rent, and discharging
some other debts the building had occasion'd, which embarrass'd
them greatly. Being now a member of both sets of trustees,
that for the building and that for the Academy, I had a good
opportunity of negotiating with both, and brought them finally
to an agreement, by which the trustees for the building were to cede
it to those of the academy, the latter undertaking to discharge
the debt, to keep for ever open in the building a large hall
for occasional preachers, according to the original intention,
and maintain a free school for the instruction of poor children.
Writings were accordingly drawn, and on paying the debts the
trustees of the academy were put in possession of the premises;
and by dividing the great and lofty hall into stories, and different
rooms above and below for the several schools, and purchasing some
additional ground, the whole was soon made fit for our purpose,
and the scholars remov'd into the building. The care and trouble
of agreeing with the workmen, purchasing materials, and superintending
the work, fell upon me; and I went thro' it the more cheerfully,
as it did not then interfere with my private business, having the
year before taken a very able, industrious, and honest partner,
Mr. David Hall, with whose character I was well acquainted, as he
had work'd for me four years. He took off my hands all care of
the printing-office, paying me punctually my share of the profits.
This partnership continued eighteen years, successfully for us both.
The trustees of the academy, after a while, were incorporated
by a charter from the governor; their funds were increas'd by
contributions in Britain and grants of land from the proprietaries,
to which the Assembly has since made considerable addition;
and thus was established the present University of Philadelphia.
I have been continued one of its trustees from the beginning,
now near forty years, and have had the very great pleasure of seeing
a number of the youth who have receiv'd their education in it,
distinguish'd by their improv'd abilities, serviceable in public
stations and ornaments to their country.
When I disengaged myself, as above mentioned, from private business,
I flatter'd myself that, by the sufficient tho' moderate fortune
I had acquir'd, I had secured leisure during the rest of my life
for philosophical studies and amusements. I purchased all
Dr. Spence's apparatus, who had come from England to lecture here,
and I proceeded in my electrical experiments with great alacrity;
but the publick, now considering me as a man of leisure, laid hold
of me for their purposes, every part of our civil government,
and almost at the same time, imposing some duty upon me.
The governor put me into the commission of the peace; the corporation
of the city chose me of the common council, and soon after an alderman;
and the citizens at large chose me a burgess to represent them
in Assembly. This latter station was the more agreeable to me,
as I was at length tired with sitting there to hear debates,
in which, as clerk, I could take no part, and which were often
so unentertaining that I was induc'd to amuse myself with making
magic squares or circles, or any thing to avoid weariness; and I
conceiv'd my becoming a member would enlarge my power of doing good.
I would not, however, insinuate that my ambition was not flatter'd by all
these promotions; it certainly was; for, considering my low beginning,
they were great things to me; and they were still more pleasing,
as being so many spontaneous testimonies of the public good opinion,
and by me entirely unsolicited.
The office of justice of the peace I try'd a little, by attending
a few courts, and sitting on the bench to hear causes; but finding
that more knowledge of the common law than I possess'd was necessary
to act in that station with credit, I gradually withdrew from it,
excusing myself by my being oblig'd to attend the higher duties
of a legislator in the Assembly. My election to this trust was
repeated every year for ten years, without my ever asking any
elector for his vote, or signifying, either directly or indirectly,
any desire of being chosen. On taking my seat in the House,
my son was appointed their clerk.
The year following, a treaty being to be held with the Indians
at Carlisle, the governor sent a message to the House, proposing that
they should nominate some of their members, to be join'd with some
members of council, as commissioners for that purpose.<11> The House
named the speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself; and, being commission'd,
we went to Carlisle, and met the Indians accordingly.
<11> See the votes to have this more correctly.
As those people are extreamly apt to get drunk, and, when so,
are very quarrelsome and disorderly, we strictly forbad the selling
any liquor to them; and when they complain'd of this restriction,
we told them that if they would continue sober during the treaty,
we would give them plenty of rum when business was over.
They promis'd this, and they kept their promise, because they could get
no liquor, and the treaty was conducted very orderly, and concluded
to mutual satisfaction. They then claim'd and receiv'd the rum; this was
in the afternoon; they were near one hundred men, women, and children,
and were lodg'd in temporary cabins, built in the form of a square,
just without the town. In the evening, hearing a great noise
among them, the commissioners walk'd out to see what was the matter.
We found they had made a great bonfire in the middle of the square;
they were all drunk, men and women, quarreling and fighting.
Their dark-colour'd bodies, half naked, seen only by the gloomy light
of the bonfire, running after and beating one another with firebrands,
accompanied by their horrid yellings, form'd a scene the most
resembling our ideas of hell that could well be imagin'd; there was
no appeasing the tumult, and we retired to our lodging. At midnight
a number of them came thundering at our door, demanding more rum,
of which we took no notice.
The next day, sensible they had misbehav'd in giving us that disturbance,
they sent three of their old counselors to make their apology.
The orator acknowledg'd the fault, but laid it upon the rum;
and then endeavored to excuse the rum by saying, "The Great Spirit,
who made all things, made every thing for some use, and whatever use
he design'd any thing for, that use it should always be put to.
Now, when he made rum, he said 'Let this be for the Indians to get
drunk with,' and it must be so." And, indeed, if it be the design
of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room
for cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum may
be the appointed means. It has already annihilated all the tribes
who formerly inhabited the sea-coast.
In 1751, Dr. Thomas Bond, a particular friend of mine, conceived the idea
of establishing a hospital in Philadelphia (a very beneficent design,
which has been ascrib'd to me, but was originally his), for the reception
and cure of poor sick persons, whether inhabitants of the province
or strangers. He was zealous and active in endeavouring to procure
subscriptions for it, but the proposal being a novelty in America,
and at first not well understood, he met with but small success.
At length he came to me with the compliment that he found there
was no such thing as carrying a public-spirited project through
without my being concern'd in it. "For," says he, "I am often
ask'd by those to whom I propose subscribing, Have you consulted
Franklin upon this business? And what does he think of it?
And when I tell them that I have not (supposing it rather out of your
line), they do not subscribe, but say they will consider of it."
I enquired into the nature and probable utility of his scheme,
and receiving from him a very satisfactory explanation, I not only
subscrib'd to it myself, but engag'd heartily in the design of procuring
subscriptions from others. Previously, however, to the solicitation,
I endeavoured to prepare the minds of the people by writing on the
subject in the newspapers, which was my usual custom in such cases,
but which he had omitted.
The subscriptions afterwards were more free and generous;
but, beginning to flag, I saw they would be insufficient without
some assistance from the Assembly, and therefore propos'd to
petition for it, which was done. The country members did not at
first relish the project; they objected that it could only be
serviceable to the city, and therefore the citizens alone should
be at the expense of it; and they doubted whether the citizens
themselves generally approv'd of it. My allegation on the contrary,
that it met with such approbation as to leave no doubt of our
being able to raise two thousand pounds by voluntary donations,
they considered as a most extravagant supposition, and utterly impossible.
On this I form'd my plan; and asking leave to bring in a bill for
incorporating the contributors according to the prayer of their petition,
and granting them a blank sum of money, which leave was obtained
chiefly on the consideration that the House could throw the bill out
if they did not like it, I drew it so as to make the important clause
a conditional one, viz., "And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid,
that when the said contributors shall have met and chosen their
managers and treasurer, and shall have raised by their contributions
a capital stock of ----- value (the yearly interest of which is to be
applied to the accommodating of the sick poor in the said hospital,
free of charge for diet, attendance, advice, and medicines), and
shall make the same appear to the satisfaction of the speaker of
the Assembly for the time being, that then it shall and may be lawful
for the said speaker, and he is hereby required, to sign an order
on the provincial treasurer for the payment of two thousand pounds,
in two yearly payments, to the treasurer of the said hospital,
to be applied to the founding, building, and finishing of the same."
This condition carried the bill through; for the members, who had
oppos'd the grant, and now conceiv'd they might have the credit
of being charitable without the expence, agreed to its passage;
and then, in soliciting subscriptions among the people, we urg'd
the conditional promise of the law as an additional motive to give,
since every man's donation would be doubled; thus the clause
work'd both ways. The subscriptions accordingly soon exceeded
the requisite sum, and we claim'd and receiv'd the public gift,
which enabled us to carry the design into execution. A convenient
and handsome building was soon erected; the institution has
by constant experience been found useful, and flourishes to
this day; and I do not remember any of my political manoeuvres,
the success of which gave me at the time more pleasure, or wherein,
after thinking of it, I more easily excus'd myself for having made
some use of cunning.
It was about this time that another projector, the Rev. Gilbert Tennent,
came to me with a request that I would assist him in procuring
a subscription for erecting a new meeting-house. It was to be for
the use of a congregation he had gathered among the Presbyterians,
who were originally disciples of Mr. Whitefield. Unwilling to
make myself disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by too frequently
soliciting their contributions, I absolutely refus'd. He then
desired I would furnish him with a list of the names of persons I
knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited. I thought
it would be unbecoming in me, after their kind compliance with
my solicitations, to mark them out to be worried by other beggars,
and therefore refus'd also to give such a list. He then desir'd I
would at least give him my advice. "That I will readily do," said I;
"and, in the first place, I advise you to apply to all those whom
you know will give something; next, to those whom you are uncertain
whether they will give any thing or not, and show them the list
of those who have given; and, lastly, do not neglect those who you
are sure will give nothing, for in some of them you may be mistaken."
He laugh'd and thank'd me, and said he would take my advice.
He did so, for he ask'd of everybody, and he obtained a much
larger sum than he expected, with which he erected the capacious
and very elegant meeting-house that stands in Arch-street.
Our city, tho' laid out with a beautiful regularity, the streets large,
strait, and crossing each other at right angles, had the disgrace
of suffering those streets to remain long unpav'd, and in wet
weather the wheels of heavy carriages plough'd them into a quagmire,
so that it was difficult to cross them; and in dry weather the dust
was offensive. I had liv'd near what was call'd the Jersey Market,
and saw with pain the inhabitants wading in mud while purchasing
their provisions. A strip of ground down the middle of that
market was at length pav'd with brick, so that, being once
in the market, they had firm footing, but were often over shoes
in dirt to get there. By talking and writing on the subject,
I was at length instrumental in getting the street pav'd with stone
between the market and the brick'd foot-pavement, that was on each
side next the houses. This, for some time, gave an easy access
to the market dry-shod; but, the rest of the street not being
pav'd, whenever a carriage came out of the mud upon this pavement,
it shook off and left its dirt upon it, and it was soon cover'd
with mire, which was not remov'd, the city as yet having no scavengers.
After some inquiry I found a poor industrious man, who was willing
to undertake keeping the pavement clean, by sweeping it twice
a week, carrying off the dirt from before all the neighbours'
doors, for the sum of sixpence per month, to be paid by each house.
I then wrote and printed a paper setting forth the advantages
to the neighbourhood that might be obtain'd by this small expense;
the greater ease in keeping our houses clean, so much dirt not being
brought in by people's feet; the benefit to the shops by more custom,
etc., etc., as buyers could more easily get at them; and by not having,
in windy weather, the dust blown in upon their goods, etc., etc.
I sent one of these papers to each house, and in a day or two went
round to see who would subscribe an agreement to pay these sixpences;
it was unanimously sign'd, and for a time well executed.
All the inhabitants of the city were delighted with the cleanliness
of the pavement that surrounded the market, it being a convenience
to all, and this rais'd a general desire to have all the streets paved,
and made the people more willing to submit to a tax for that purpose.
After some time I drew a bill for paving the city, and brought it
into the Assembly. It was just before I went to England, in 1757,
and did not pass till I was gone.<12> and then with an alteration
in the mode of assessment, which I thought not for the better,
but with an additional provision for lighting as well as paving
the streets, which was a great improvement. It was by a private person,
the late Mr. John Clifton, his giving a sample of the utility of lamps,
by placing one at his door, that the people were first impress'd
with the idea of enlighting all the city. The honour of this
public benefit has also been ascrib'd to me but it belongs truly
to that gentleman. I did but follow his example, and have only
some merit to claim respecting the form of our lamps, as differing
from the globe lamps we were at first supply'd with from London.
Those we found inconvenient in these respects: they admitted
no air below; the smoke, therefore, did not readily go out above,
but circulated in the globe, lodg'd on its inside, and soon
obstructed the light they were intended to afford; giving, besides,
the daily trouble of wiping them clean; and an accidental stroke
on one of them would demolish it, and render it totally useless.
I therefore suggested the composing them of four flat panes,
with a long funnel above to draw up the smoke, and crevices
admitting air below, to facilitate the ascent of the smoke; by this
means they were kept clean, and did not grow dark in a few hours,
as the London lamps do, but continu'd bright till morning,
and an accidental stroke would generally break but a single pane,
<12> See votes.
I have sometimes wonder'd that the Londoners did not, from the
effect holes in the bottom of the globe lamps us'd at Vauxhall
have in keeping them clean, learn to have such holes in their
street lamps. But, these holes being made for another purpose,
viz., to communicate flame more suddenly to the wick by a little
flax hanging down thro' them, the other use, of letting in air,
seems not to have been thought of; and therefore, after the lamps have
been lit a few hours, the streets of London are very poorly illuminated.
The mention of these improvements puts me in mind of one I propos'd, when
in London, to Dr. Fothergill, who was among the best men I have known,
and a great promoter of useful projects. I had observ'd that the streets,
when dry, were never swept, and the light dust carried away;
but it was suffer'd to accumulate till wet weather reduc'd it to mud,
and then, after lying some days so deep on the pavement that there
was no crossing but in paths kept clean by poor people with brooms,
it was with great labour rak'd together and thrown up into carts
open above, the sides of which suffer'd some of the slush at every
jolt on the pavement to shake out and fall, sometimes to the annoyance
of foot-passengers. The reason given for not sweeping the dusty
streets was, that the dust would fly into the windows of shops and houses.
An accidental occurrence had instructed me how much sweeping might
be done in a little time. I found at my door in Craven-street,
one morning, a poor woman sweeping my pavement with a birch broom;
she appeared very pale and feeble, as just come out of a fit
of sickness. I ask'd who employ'd her to sweep there; she said,
"Nobody, but I am very poor and in distress, and I sweeps before
gentlefolkses doors, and hopes they will give me something." I bid
her sweep the whole street clean, and I would give her a shilling;
this was at nine o'clock; at 12 she came for the shilling.
From the slowness I saw at first in her working, I could scarce believe
that the work was done so soon, and sent my servant to examine it,
who reported that the whole street was swept perfectly clean,
and all the dust plac'd in the gutter, which was in the middle;
and the next rain wash'd it quite away, so that the pavement and even
the kennel were perfectly clean.
I then judg'd that, if that feeble woman could sweep such a street in
three hours, a strong, active man might have done it in half the time.
And here let me remark the convenience of having but one gutter
in such a narrow street, running down its middle, instead of two,
one on each side, near the footway; for where all the rain that
falls on a street runs from the sides and meets in the middle,
it forms there a current strong enough to wash away all the mud it
meets with; but when divided into two channels, it is often too weak
to cleanse either, and only makes the mud it finds more fluid,
so that the wheels of carriages and feet of horses throw and dash it
upon the foot-pavement, which is thereby rendered foul and slippery,
and sometimes splash it upon those who are walking. My proposal,
communicated to the good doctor, was as follows:
"For the more effectual cleaning and keeping clean the streets of
London and Westminster, it is proposed that the several watchmen be
contracted with to have the dust swept up in dry seasons, and the mud
rak'd up at other times, each in the several streets and lanes
of his round; that they be furnish'd with brooms and other proper
instruments for these purposes, to be kept at their respective stands,
ready to furnish the poor people they may employ in the service.
"That in the dry summer months the dust be all swept up into heaps
at proper distances, before the shops and windows of houses are
usually opened, when the scavengers, with close-covered carts,
shall also carry it all away.
"That the mud, when rak'd up, be not left in heaps to be spread
abroad again by the wheels of carriages and trampling of horses,
but that the scavengers be provided with bodies of carts, not plac'd
high upon wheels, but low upon sliders, with lattice bottoms, which,
being cover'd with straw, will retain the mud thrown into them,
and permit the water to drain from it, whereby it will become
much lighter, water making the greatest part of its weight;
these bodies of carts to be plac'd at convenient distances, and the
mud brought to them in wheel-barrows; they remaining where plac'd
till the mud is drain'd, and then horses brought to draw them away."
I have since had doubts of the practicability of the latter part
of this proposal, on account of the narrowness of some streets,
and the difficulty of placing the draining-sleds so as not to encumber
too much the passage; but I am still of opinion that the former,
requiring the dust to be swept up and carry'd away before the shops
are open, is very practicable in the summer, when the days are long;
for, in walking thro' the Strand and Fleet-street one morning at
seven o'clock, I observ'd there was not one shop open, tho' it had
been daylight and the sun up above three hours; the inhabitants
of London chusing voluntarily to live much by candle-light,
and sleep by sunshine, and yet often complain, a little absurdly,
of the duty on candles and the high price of tallow.
Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding or relating;
but when they consider that tho' dust blown into the eyes
of a single person, or into a single shop on a windy day,
is but of small importance, yet the great number of the instances
in a populous city, and its frequent repetitions give it weight
and consequence, perhaps they will not censure very severely those
who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature.
Human felicity is produc'd not so much by great pieces of good
fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur
every day. Thus, if you teach a poor young man to shave himself,
and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness
of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. The money may be
soon spent, the regret only remaining of having foolishly consumed it;
but in the other case, he escapes the frequent vexation of waiting
for barbers, and of their sometimes dirty fingers, offensive breaths,
and dull razors; he shaves when most convenient to him, and enjoys
daily the pleasure of its being done with a good instrument.
With these sentiments I have hazarded the few preceding pages,
hoping they may afford hints which some time or other may be useful
to a city I love, having lived many years in it very happily,
and perhaps to some of our towns in America.
Having been for some time employed by the postmaster-general
of America as his comptroller in regulating several offices,
and bringing the officers to account, I was, upon his death
in 1753, appointed, jointly with Mr. William Hunter, to succeed him,
by a commission from the postmaster-general in England. The American
office never had hitherto paid any thing to that of Britain.
We were to have six hundred pounds a year between us, if we could make
that sum out of the profits of the office. To do this, a variety
of improvements were necessary; some of these were inevitably at
first expensive, so that in the first four years the office became
above nine hundred pounds in debt to us. But it soon after began
to repay us; and before I was displac'd by a freak of the ministers,
of which I shall speak hereafter, we had brought it to yield three times
as much clear revenue to the crown as the postoffice of Ireland.
Since that imprudent transaction, they have receiv'd from it--
not one farthing!
The business of the postoffice occasion'd my taking a journey this
year to New England, where the College of Cambridge, of their
own motion, presented me with the degree of Master of Arts.
Yale College, in Connecticut, had before made me a similar compliment.
Thus, without studying in any college, I came to partake
of their honours. They were conferr'd in consideration of my
improvements and discoveries in the electric branch of natural philosophy.
In 1754, war with France being again apprehended, a congress
of commissioners from the different colonies was, by an order
of the Lords of Trade, to be assembled at Albany, there to confer
with the chiefs of the Six Nations concerning the means of defending
both their country and ours. Governor Hamilton, having receiv'd
this order, acquainted the House with it, requesting they would
furnish proper presents for the Indians, to be given on this occasion;
and naming the speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself to join Mr. Thomas Penn
and Mr. Secretary Peters as commissioners to act for Pennsylvania.
The House approv'd the nomination, and provided the goods for the present,
and tho' they did not much like treating out of the provinces;
and we met the other commissioners at Albany about the middle of June.
In our way thither, I projected and drew a plan for the union
of all the colonies under one government, so far as might be
necessary for defense, and other important general purposes.
As we pass'd thro' New York, I had there shown my project to Mr. James
Alexander and Mr. Kennedy, two gentlemen of great knowledge
in public affairs, and, being fortified by their approbation,
I ventur'd to lay it before the Congress. It then appeared that
several of the commissioners had form'd plans of the same kind.
A previous question was first taken, whether a union should
be established, which pass'd in the affirmative unanimously.
A committee was then appointed, one member from each colony,
to consider the several plans and report. Mine happen'd
to be preferr'd, and, with a few amendments, was accordingly reported.
By this plan the general government was to be administered by a
president-general, appointed and supported by the crown, and a grand
council was to be chosen by the representatives of the people
of the several colonies, met in their respective assemblies.
The debates upon it in Congress went on daily, hand in hand with
the Indian business. Many objections and difficulties were started,
but at length they were all overcome, and the plan was unanimously
agreed to, and copies ordered to be transmitted to the Board
of Trade and to the assemblies of the several provinces.
Its fate was singular: the assemblies did not adopt it, as they
all thought there was too much prerogative in it, and in England
it was judg'd to have too much of the democratic.
The Board of Trade therefore did not approve of it, nor recommend it
for the approbation of his majesty; but another scheme was form'd,
supposed to answer the same purpose better, whereby the governors
of the provinces, with some members of their respective councils,
were to meet and order the raising of troops, building of forts,
etc., and to draw on the treasury of Great Britain for the expense,
which was afterwards to be refunded by an act of Parliament laying
a tax on America. My plan, with my reasons in support of it,
is to be found among my political papers that are printed.
Being the winter following in Boston, I had much conversation with
Governor Shirley upon both the plans. Part of what passed between us
on the occasion may also be seen among those papers. The different
and contrary reasons of dislike to my plan makes me suspect that it
was really the true medium; and I am still of opinion it would
have been happy for both sides the water if it had been adopted.
The colonies, so united, would have been sufficiently strong to have
defended themselves; there would then have been no need of troops
from England; of course, the subsequent pretence for taxing America,
and the bloody contest it occasioned, would have been avoided.
But such mistakes are not new; history is full of the errors of states
Look round the habitable world, how few
Know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue!
Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not
generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into
execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore
seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but forc'd by the occasion.
The Governor of Pennsylvania, in sending it down to the Assembly,
express'd his approbation of the plan, "as appearing to him
to be drawn up with great clearness and strength of judgment,
and therefore recommended it as well worthy of their closest and
most serious attention." The House, however, by the management
of a certain member, took it up when I happen'd to be absent,
which I thought not very fair, and reprobated it without paying
any attention to it at all, to my no small mortification.
In my journey to Boston this year, I met at New York with our
new governor, Mr. Morris, just arriv'd there from England, with whom
I had been before intimately acquainted. He brought a commission
to supersede Mr. Hamilton, who, tir'd with the disputes his proprietary
instructions subjected him to, had resign'd. Mr. Morris ask'd me
if I thought he must expect as uncomfortable an administration.
I said, "No; you may, on the contrary, have a very comfortable one,
if you will only take care not to enter into any dispute with
the Assembly." "My dear friend," says he, pleasantly, "how can
you advise my avoiding disputes? You know I love disputing;
it is one of my greatest pleasures; however, to show the regard
I have for your counsel, I promise you I will, if possible,
avoid them." He had some reason for loving to dispute, being eloquent,
an acute sophister, and, therefore, generally successful in
argumentative conversation. He had been brought up to it from a boy,
his father, as I have heard, accustoming his children to dispute with
one another for his diversion, while sitting at table after dinner;
but I think the practice was not wise; for, in the course of
my observation, these disputing, contradicting, and confuting people
are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes,
but they never get good will, which would be of more use to them.
We parted, he going to Philadelphia, and I to Boston.
In returning, I met at New York with the votes of the Assembly,
by which it appear'd that, notwithstanding his promise to me,
he and the House were already in high contention; and it was a
continual battle between them as long as he retain'd the government.
I had my share of it; for, as soon as I got back to my seat in
the Assembly, I was put on every committee for answering his speeches
and messages, and by the committees always desired to make the drafts.
Our answers, as well as his messages, were often tart, and sometimes
indecently abusive; and, as he knew I wrote for the Assembly,
one might have imagined that, when we met, we could hardly avoid
cutting throats; but he was so good-natur'd a man that no personal
difference between him and me was occasion'd by the contest, and we
often din'd together.
One afternoon, in the height of this public quarrel, we met in
the street. "Franklin," says he, "you must go home with me and spend
the evening; I am to have some company that you will like;" and,
taking me by the arm, he led me to his house. In gay conversation
over our wine, after supper, he told us, jokingly, that he much
admir'd the idea of Sancho Panza, who, when it was proposed to give
him a government, requested it might be a government of blacks,
as then, if he could not agree with his people, he might sell them.
One of his friends, who sat next to me, says, "Franklin, why
do you continue to side with these damn'd Quakers? Had not you
better sell them? The proprietor would give you a good price."
"The governor," says I, "has not yet blacked them enough."
He, indeed, had labored hard to blacken the Assembly in all
his messages, but they wip'd off his coloring as fast as he
laid it on, and plac'd it, in return, thick upon his own face;
so that, finding he was likely to be negrofied himself, he, as well
as Mr. Hamilton, grew tir'd of the contest, and quitted the government.
<13>These public quarrels were all at bottom owing to the proprietaries,
our hereditary governors, who, when any expense was to be incurred
for the defense of their province, with incredible meanness instructed
their deputies to pass no act for levying the necessary taxes,
unless their vast estates were in the same act expressly excused;
and they had even taken bonds of these deputies to observe
such instructions. The Assemblies for three years held out against
this injustice, tho' constrained to bend at last. At length
Captain Denny, who was Governor Morris's successor, ventured to disobey
those instructions; how that was brought about I shall show hereafter.
<13> My acts in Morris's time, military, etc.--[Marg. note.]
But I am got forward too fast with my story: there are still some
transactions to be mention'd that happened during the administration
of Governor Morris.
War being in a manner commenced with France, the government of
Massachusetts Bay projected an attack upon Crown Point, and sent
Mr. Quincy to Pennsylvania, and Mr. Pownall, afterward Governor Pownall,
to New York, to solicit assistance. As I was in the Assembly,
knew its temper, and was Mr. Quincy's countryman, he appli'd to me
for my influence and assistance. I dictated his address to them,
which was well receiv'd. They voted an aid of ten thousand pounds,
to be laid out in provisions. But the governor refusing his
assent to their bill (which included this with other sums granted
for the use of the crown), unless a clause were inserted exempting
the proprietary estate from bearing any part of the tax that would
be necessary, the Assembly, tho' very desirous of making their grant
to New England effectual, were at a loss how to accomplish it.
Mr. Quincy labored hard with the governor to obtain his assent,
but he was obstinate.
I then suggested a method of doing the business without the governor,
by orders on the trustees of the Loan Office, which, by law,
the Assembly had the right of drawing. There was, indeed, little or
no money at that time in the office, and therefore I propos'd that
the orders should be payable in a year, and to bear an interest
of five per cent. With these orders I suppos'd the provisions might
easily be purchas'd. The Assembly, with very little hesitation,
adopted the proposal. The orders were immediately printed, and I
was one of the committee directed to sign and dispose of them.
The fund for paying them was the interest of all the paper currency
then extant in the province upon loan, together with the revenue
arising from the excise, which being known to be more than sufficient,
they obtain'd instant credit, and were not only receiv'd in payment
for the provisions, but many money'd people, who had cash lying by them,
vested it in those orders, which they found advantageous, as they bore
interest while upon hand, and might on any occasion be used as money;
so that they were eagerly all bought up, and in a few weeks none of them
were to be seen. Thus this important affair was by my means compleated.
My Quincy return'd thanks to the Assembly in a handsome memorial,
went home highly pleas'd with the success of his embassy, and ever
after bore for me the most cordial and affectionate friendship.
The British government, not chusing to permit the union of the colonies
as propos'd at Albany, and to trust that union with their defense,
lest they should thereby grow too military, and feel their own strength,
suspicions and jealousies at this time being entertain'd of them,
sent over General Braddock with two regiments of regular English
troops for that purpose. He landed at Alexandria, in Virginia,
and thence march'd to Frederictown, in Maryland, where he halted
for carriages. Our Assembly apprehending, from some information,
that he had conceived violent prejudices against them, as averse
to the service, wish'd me to wait upon him, not as from them,
but as postmaster-general, under the guise of proposing to settle
with him the mode of conducting with most celerity and certainty
the despatches between him and the governors of the several provinces,
with whom he must necessarily have continual correspondence, and of
which they propos'd to pay the expense. My son accompanied me on
We found the general at Frederictown, waiting impatiently for
the return of those he had sent thro' the back parts of Maryland
and Virginia to collect waggons. I stayed with him several days,
din'd with him daily, and had full opportunity of removing
all his prejudices, by the information of what the Assembly had
before his arrival actually done, and were still willing to do,
to facilitate his operations. When I was about to depart, the returns
of waggons to be obtained were brought in, by which it appear'd
that they amounted only to twenty-five, and not all of those were
in serviceable condition. The general and all the officers were
surpris'd, declar'd the expedition was then at an end, being impossible,
and exclaim'd against the ministers for ignorantly landing them in a
country destitute of the means of conveying their stores, baggage,
etc., not less than one hundred and fifty waggons being necessary.
I happened to say I thought it was a pity they had not been landed
rather in Pennsylvania, as in that country almost every farmer had
his waggon. The general eagerly laid hold of my words, and said,
"Then you, sir, who are a man of interest there, can probably
procure them for us; and I beg you will undertake it." I ask'd
what terms were to be offer'd the owners of the waggons; and I was
desir'd to put on paper the terms that appeared to me necessary.
This I did, and they were agreed to, and a commission and instructions
accordingly prepar'd immediately. What those terms were will appear
in the advertisement I publish'd as soon as I arriv'd at Lancaster,
which being, from the great and sudden effect it produc'd, a piece
of some curiosity, I shall insert it at length, as follows:
"LANCASTER, April 26, 1755.
"Whereas, one hundred and fifty waggons, with four horses to each waggon,
and fifteen hundred saddle or pack horses, are wanted for the service
of his majesty's forces now about to rendezvous at Will's Creek,
and his excellency General Braddock having been pleased to empower
me to contract for the hire of the same, I hereby give notice
that I shall attend for that purpose at Lancaster from this day
to next Wednesday evening, and at York from next Thursday morning
till Friday evening, where I shall be ready to agree for waggons
and teams, or single horses, on the following terms, viz.: I. That
there shall be paid for each waggon, with four good horses and
a driver, fifteen shillings per diem; and for each able horse
with a pack-saddle, or other saddle and furniture, two shillings
per diem; and for each able horse without a saddle, eighteen pence
per diem. 2. That the pay commence from the time of their joining
the forces at Will's Creek, which must be on or before the 20th
of May ensuing, and that a reasonable allowance be paid over and
above for the time necessary for their travelling to Will's Creek
and home again after their discharge. 3. Each waggon and team,
and every saddle or pack horse, is to be valued by indifferent
persons chosen between me and the owner; and in case of the loss of
any waggon, team, or other horse in the service, the price according
to such valuation is to be allowed and paid. 4. Seven days'
pay is to be advanced and paid in hand by me to the owner of each
waggon and team, or horse, at the time of contracting, if required,
and the remainder to be paid by General Braddock, or by the paymaster
of the army, at the time of their discharge, or from time to time,
as it shall be demanded. 5. No drivers of waggons, or persons
taking care of the hired horses, are on any account to be called
upon to do the duty of soldiers, or be otherwise employed than in
conducting or taking care of their carriages or horses. 6. All oats,
Indian corn, or other forage that waggons or horses bring to the camp,
more than is necessary for the subsistence of the horses, is to be
taken for the use of the army, and a reasonable price paid for the same.
"Note.--My son, William Franklin, is empowered to enter into like
contracts with any person in Cumberland county.
"To the inhabitants of the Counties of Lancaster,
York and Cumberland.
"Friends and Countrymen,
"Being occasionally at the camp at Frederic a few days since,
I found the general and officers extremely exasperated on account
of their not being supplied with horses and carriages, which had
been expected from this province, as most able to furnish them;
but, through the dissensions between our governor and Assembly,
money had not been provided, nor any steps taken for that purpose.
"It was proposed to send an armed force immediately into these counties,
to seize as many of the best carriages and horses as should be wanted,
and compel as many persons into the service as would be necessary
to drive and take care of them.
"I apprehended that the progress of British soldiers through these
counties on such an occasion, especially considering the temper
they are in, and their resentment against us, would be attended
with many and great inconveniences to the inhabitants, and therefore
more willingly took the trouble of trying first what might be done
by fair and equitable means. The people of these back counties
have lately complained to the Assembly that a sufficient currency
was wanting; you have an opportunity of receiving and dividing
among you a very considerable sum; for, if the service of this
expedition should continue, as it is more than probable it will,
for one hundred and twenty days, the hire of these waggons
and horses will amount to upward of thirty thousand pounds,
which will be paid you in silver and gold of the king's money.
"The service will be light and easy, for the army will scarce march
above twelve miles per day, and the waggons and baggage-horses, as
they carry those things that are absolutely necessary to the welfare
of the army, must march with the army, and no faster; and are,
for the army's sake, always placed where they can be most secure,
whether in a march or in a camp.
"If you are really, as I believe you are, good and loyal subjects
to his majesty, you may now do a most acceptable service, and make it
easy to yourselves; for three or four of such as can not separately
spare from the business of their plantations a waggon and four
horses and a driver, may do it together, one furnishing the waggon,
another one or two horses, and another the driver, and divide the pay
proportionately between you; but if you do not this service to your
king and country voluntarily, when such good pay and reasonable
terms are offered to you, your loyalty will be strongly suspected.
The king's business must be done; so many brave troops, come so far
for your defense, must not stand idle through your backwardness
to do what may be reasonably expected from you; waggons and horses
must be had; violent measures will probably be used, and you
will be left to seek for a recompense where you can find it,
and your case, perhaps, be little pitied or regarded.
"I have no particular interest in this affair, as, except the
satisfaction of endeavoring to do good, I shall have only my labour
for my pains. If this method of obtaining the waggons and horses
is not likely to succeed, I am obliged to send word to the general
in fourteen days; and I suppose Sir John St. Clair, the hussar,
with a body of soldiers, will immediately enter the province
for the purpose, which I shall be sorry to hear, because I
am very sincerely and truly your friend and well-wisher, B. FRANKLIN."
I received of the general about eight hundred pounds, to be
disbursed in advance-money to the waggon owners, etc.; but, that sum
being insufficient, I advanc'd upward of two hundred pounds more,
and in two weeks the one hundred and fifty waggons, with two hundred
and fifty-nine carrying horses, were on their march for the camp.
The advertisement promised payment according to the valuation,
in case any waggon or horse should be lost. The owners, however,
alleging they did not know General Braddock, or what dependence
might be had on his promise, insisted on my bond for the performance,
which I accordingly gave them.
While I was at the camp, supping one evening with the officers
of Colonel Dunbar's regiment, he represented to me his concern
for the subalterns, who, he said, were generally not in affluence,
and could ill afford, in this dear country, to lay in the stores
that might be necessary in so long a march, thro' a wilderness,
where nothing was to be purchas'd. I commiserated their case,
and resolved to endeavor procuring them some relief. I said nothing,
however, to him of my intention, but wrote the next morning to the
committee of the Assembly, who had the disposition of some public money,
warmly recommending the case of these officers to their consideration,
and proposing that a present should be sent them of necessaries
and refreshments. My son, who had some experience of a camp life,
and of its wants, drew up a list for me, which I enclos'd in my letter.
The committee approv'd, and used such diligence that, conducted by
my son, the stores arrived at the camp as soon as the waggons.
They consisted of twenty parcels, each containing
6 lbs. loaf sugar. 1 Gloucester cheese.
6 lbs. good Muscovado do. 1 kegg containing 20 lbs. good
1 lb. good green tea. butter.
1 lb. good bohea do. 2 doz. old Madeira wine.
6 lbs. good ground coffee. 2 gallons Jamaica spirits.
6 lbs. chocolate. 1 bottle flour of mustard.
1-2 cwt. best white biscuit. 2 well-cur'd hams.
1-2 lb. pepper. 1-2 dozen dry'd tongues.
1 quart best white wine vinegar 6 lbs. rice.
6 lbs. raisins.
These twenty parcels, well pack'd, were placed on as many horses,
each parcel, with the horse, being intended as a present for
one officer. They were very thankfully receiv'd, and the kindness
acknowledg'd by letters to me from the colonels of both regiments,
in the most grateful terms. The general, too, was highly satisfied
with my conduct in procuring him the waggons, etc., and readily
paid my account of disbursements, thanking me repeatedly,
and requesting my farther assistance in sending provisions after him.
I undertook this also, and was busily employ'd in it till we heard
of his defeat, advancing for the service of my own money, upwards of
one thousand pounds sterling, of which I sent him an account.
It came to his hands, luckily for me, a few days before the battle,
and he return'd me immediately an order on the paymaster for the round
sum of one thousand pounds, leaving the remainder to the next account.
I consider this payment as good luck, having never been able
to obtain that remainder, of which more hereafter.
This general was, I think, a brave man, and might probably have
made a figure as a good officer in some European war. But he had
too much self-confidence, too high an opinion of the validity of
regular troops, and too mean a one of both Americans and Indians.
George Croghan, our Indian interpreter, join'd him on his march
with one hundred of those people, who might have been of great use
to his army as guides, scouts, etc., if he had treated them kindly;
but he slighted and neglected them, and they gradually left him.
In conversation with him one day, he was giving me some account
of his intended progress. "After taking Fort Duquesne," says he,
"I am to proceed to Niagara; and, having taken that, to Frontenac,
if the season will allow time; and I suppose it will, for Duquesne
can hardly detain me above three or four days; and then I see nothing
that can obstruct my march to Niagara." Having before revolv'd
in my mind the long line his army must make in their march by a
very narrow road, to be cut for them thro' the woods and bushes,
and also what I had read of a former defeat of fifteen hundred French,
who invaded the Iroquois country, I had conceiv'd some doubts and some
fears for the event of the campaign. But I ventur'd only to say,
"To be sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne, with these
fine troops, so well provided with artillery, that place not yet
compleatly fortified, and as we hear with no very strong garrison,
can probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I apprehend
of obstruction to your march is from ambuscades of Indians, who,
by constant practice, are dexterous in laying and executing them;
and the slender line, near four miles long, which your army must make,
may expose it to be attack'd by surprise in its flanks, and to be
cut like a thread into several pieces, which, from their distance,
can not come up in time to support each other."
He smil'd at my ignorance, and reply'd, "These savages may, indeed,
be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia, but upon
the king's regular and disciplin'd troops, sir, it is impossible
they should make any impression." I was conscious of an impropriety
in my disputing with a military man in matters of his profession,
and said no more. The enemy, however, did not take the advantage
of his army which I apprehended its long line of march expos'd it to,
but let it advance without interruption till within nine miles
of the place; and then, when more in a body (for it had just passed
a river, where the front had halted till all were come over), and
in a more open part of the woods than any it had pass'd, attack'd
its advanced guard by a heavy fire from behind trees and bushes,
which was the first intelligence the general had of an enemy's
being near him. This guard being disordered, the general hurried
the troops up to their assistance, which was done in great confusion,
thro' waggons, baggage, and cattle; and presently the fire came upon
their flank: the officers, being on horseback, were more easily
distinguish'd, pick'd out as marks, and fell very fast; and the soldiers
were crowded together in a huddle, having or hearing no orders,
and standing to be shot at till two-thirds of them were killed;
and then, being seiz'd with a panick, the whole fled with precipitation.
The waggoners took each a horse out of his team and scamper'd;
their example was immediately followed by others; so that all
the waggons, provisions, artillery, and stores were left to the enemy.
The general, being wounded, was brought off with difficulty;
his secretary, Mr. Shirley, was killed by his side; and out
of eighty-six officers, sixty-three were killed or wounded,
and seven hundred and fourteen men killed out of eleven hundred.
These eleven hundred had been picked men from the whole army;
the rest had been left behind with Colonel Dunbar, who was to follow
with the heavier part of the stores, provisions, and baggage.
The flyers, not being pursu'd, arriv'd at Dunbar's camp,
and the panick they brought with them instantly seiz'd him
and all his people; and, tho' he had now above one thousand men,
and the enemy who had beaten Braddock did not at most exceed
four hundred Indians and French together, instead of proceeding,
and endeavoring to recover some of the lost honour, he ordered
all the stores, ammunition, etc., to be destroy'd, that he might
have more horses to assist his flight towards the settlements,
and less lumber to remove. He was there met with requests from
the governors of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, that he would
post his troops on the frontiers, so as to afford some protection
to the inhabitants; but he continu'd his hasty march thro'
all the country, not thinking himself safe till he arriv'd
at Philadelphia, where the inhabitants could protect him. This whole
transaction gave us Americans the first suspicion that our exalted
ideas of the prowess of British regulars had not been well founded.
In their first march, too, from their landing till they got beyond
the settlements, they had plundered and stripped the inhabitants,
totally ruining some poor families, besides insulting, abusing,
and confining the people if they remonstrated. This was enough
to put us out of conceit of such defenders, if we had really
wanted any. How different was the conduct of our French friends
in 1781, who, during a march thro' the most inhabited part of our
country from Rhode Island to Virginia, near seven hundred miles,
occasioned not the smallest complaint for the loss of a pig,
a chicken, or even an apple.
Captain Orme, who was one of the general's aids-de-camp, and,
being grievously wounded, was brought off with him, and continu'd
with him to his death, which happen'd in a few days, told me that
he was totally silent all the first day, and at night only said,
"Who would have thought it?" That he was silent again the following day,
saying only at last, "We shall better know how to deal with them
another time;" and dy'd in a few minutes after.
The secretary's papers, with all the general's orders,
instructions, and correspondence, falling into the enemy's hands,
they selected and translated into French a number of the articles,
which they printed, to prove the hostile intentions of the British
court before the declaration of war. Among these I saw some letters
of the general to the ministry, speaking highly of the great service
I had rendered the army, and recommending me to their notice.
David Hume, too, who was some years after secretary to Lord Hertford,
when minister in France, and afterward to General Conway, when secretary
of state, told me he had seen among the papers in that office,
letters from Braddock highly recommending me. But, the expedition
having been unfortunate, my service, it seems, was not thought
of much value, for those recommendations were never of any use to me.
As to rewards from himself, I ask'd only one, which was, that he would
give orders to his officers not to enlist any more of our bought servants,
and that he would discharge such as had been already enlisted.
This he readily granted, and several were accordingly return'd
to their masters, on my application. Dunbar, when the command
devolv'd on him, was not so generous. He being at Philadelphia,
on his retreat, or rather flight, I apply'd to him for the discharge
of the servants of three poor farmers of Lancaster county that he
had enlisted, reminding him of the late general's orders on that bead.
He promised me that, if the masters would come to him at Trenton,
where he should be in a few days on his march to New York,
he would there deliver their men to them. They accordingly were at
the expense and trouble of going to Trenton, and there he refus'd
to perform his promise, to their great loss and disappointment.
As soon as the loss of the waggons and horses was generally known,
all the owners came upon me for the valuation which I had given bond
to pay. Their demands gave me a great deal of trouble, my acquainting
them that the money was ready in the paymaster's hands, but that
orders for paying it must first be obtained from General Shirley,
and my assuring them that I had apply'd to that general by letter;
but, he being at a distance, an answer could not soon be receiv'd,
and they must have patience, all this was not sufficient to satisfy,
and some began to sue me. General Shirley at length relieved me
from this terrible situation by appointing commissioners to examine
the claims, and ordering payment. They amounted to near twenty
thousand pound, which to pay would have ruined me.
Before we had the news of this defeat, the two Doctors Bond came
to me with a subscription paper for raising money to defray
the expense of a grand firework, which it was intended to exhibit
at a rejoicing on receipt of the news of our taking Fort Duquesne.
I looked grave, and said it would, I thought, be time enough
to prepare for the rejoicing when we knew we should have occasion
to rejoice. They seem'd surpris'd that I did not immediately
comply with their proposal. "Why the d--l!" says one of them,
"you surely don't suppose that the fort will not be taken?"
"I don't know that it will not be taken, but I know that the events
of war are subject to great uncertainty." I gave them the reasons
of my doubting; the subscription was dropt, and the projectors thereby
missed the mortification they would have undergone if the firework
had been prepared. Dr. Bond, on some other occasion afterward,
said that he did not like Franklin's forebodings.
Governor Morris, who had continually worried the Assembly with message
after message before the defeat of Braddock, to beat them into
the making of acts to raise money for the defense of the province,
without taxing, among others, the proprietary estates, and had
rejected all their bills for not having such an exempting clause,
now redoubled his attacks with more hope of success, the danger
and necessity being greater. The Assembly, however, continu'd firm,
believing they had justice on their side, and that it would
be giving up an essential right if they suffered the governor
to amend their money-bills. In one of the last, indeed, which was
for granting fifty thousand pounds, his propos'd amendment was
only of a single word. The bill expressed "that all estates,
real and personal, were to be taxed, those of the proprietaries
not excepted." His amendment was, for not read only: a small,
but very material alteration. However, when the news of this
disaster reached England, our friends there, whom we had taken care
to furnish with all the Assembly's answers to the governor's messages,
rais'd a clamor against the proprietaries for their meanness and
injustice in giving their governor such instructions; some going
so far as to say that, by obstructing the defense of their province,
they forfeited their right to it. They were intimidated by this,
and sent orders to their receiver-general to add five thousand
pounds of their money to whatever sum might be given by the Assembly
for such purpose.
This, being notified to the House, was accepted in lieu of their share
of a general tax, and a new bill was form'd, with an exempting clause,
which passed accordingly. By this act I was appointed one of the
commissioners for disposing of the money, sixty thousand pounds.
I had been active in modelling the bill and procuring its passage,
and had, at the same time, drawn a bill for establishing
and disciplining of a voluntary militia, which I carried thro'
the House without much difficulty, as care was taken in it to
leave the Quakers at their liberty. To promote the association
necessary to form the militia, I wrote a dialogue,<14> stating
and answering all the objections I could think of to such a militia,
which was printed, and had, as I thought, great effect.
<14> This dialogue and the militia act are in the
"Gentleman's Magazine" for February and March, 1756.
While the several companies in the city and country were forming
and learning their exercise, the governor prevail'd with me to take
charge of our North-western frontier, which was infested by the enemy,
and provide for the defense of the inhabitants by raising troops and
building a line of forts. I undertook this military business, tho' I did
not conceive myself well qualified for it. He gave me a commission
with full powers, and a parcel of blank commissions for officers,
to be given to whom I thought fit. I had but little difficulty
in raising men, having soon five hundred and sixty under my command.
My son, who had in the preceding war been an officer in the army
rais'd against Canada, was my aid-de-camp, and of great use to me.
The Indians had burned Gnadenhut, a village settled by the Moravians,
and massacred the inhabitants; but the place was thought a good
situation for one of the forts.
In order to march thither, I assembled the companies at Bethlehem,
the chief establishment of those people. I was surprised to find
it in so good a posture of defense; the destruction of Gnadenhut
had made them apprehend danger. The principal buildings were
defended by a stockade; they had purchased a quantity of arms and
ammunition from New York, and had even plac'd quantities of small
paving stones between the windows of their high stone houses,
for their women to throw down upon the heads of any Indians
that should attempt to force into them. The armed brethren, too,
kept watch, and reliev'd as methodically as in any garrison town.
In conversation with the bishop, Spangenberg, I mention'd this
my surprise; for, knowing they had obtained an act of Parliament
exempting them from military duties in the colonies, I had
suppos'd they were conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms.
He answer'd me that it was not one of their established principles,
but that, at the time of their obtaining that act, it was thought
to be a principle with many of their people. On this occasion,
however, they, to their surprise, found it adopted by but a few.
It seems they were either deceiv'd in themselves, or deceiv'd
the Parliament; but common sense, aided by present danger,
will sometimes be too strong for whimsical opinions.
It was the beginning of January when we set out upon this business
of building forts. I sent one detachment toward the Minisink,
with instructions to erect one for the security of that upper part of
the country, and another to the lower part, with similar instructions;
and I concluded to go myself with the rest of my force to Gnadenhut,
where a fort was tho't more immediately necessary. The Moravians
procur'd me five waggons for our tools, stores, baggage, etc.
Just before we left Bethlehem, eleven farmers, who had been driven
from their plantations by the Indians, came to me requesting a supply
of firearms, that they might go back and fetch off their cattle.
I gave them each a gun with suitable ammunition. We had not march'd
many miles before it began to rain, and it continued raining all day;
there were no habitations on the road to shelter us, till we arriv'd
near night at the house of a German, where, and in his barn,
we were all huddled together, as wet as water could make us.
It was well we were not attack'd in our march, for our arms were of
the most ordinary sort, and our men could not keep their gun locks dry.
The Indians are dextrous in contrivances for that purpose, which we
had not. They met that day the eleven poor farmers above mentioned,
and killed ten of them. The one who escap'd inform'd that his and
his companions' guns would not go off, the priming being wet with
The next day being fair, we continu'd our march, and arriv'd at
the desolated Gnadenhut. There was a saw-mill near, round which were
left several piles of boards, with which we soon hutted ourselves;
an operation the more necessary at that inclement season, as we
had no tents. Our first work was to bury more effectually the dead
we found there, who had been half interr'd by the country people.
The next morning our fort was plann'd and mark'd out, the circumference
measuring four hundred and fifty-five feet, which would require
as many palisades to be made of trees, one with another,
of a foot diameter each. Our axes, of which we had seventy,
were immediately set to work to cut down trees, and, our men
being dextrous in the use of them, great despatch was made.
Seeing the trees fall so fast, I had the curiosity to look at my watch
when two men began to cut at a pine; in six minutes they had it upon
the ground, and I found it of fourteen inches diameter. Each pine
made three palisades of eighteen feet long, pointed at one end.
While these were preparing, our other men dug a trench all round,
of three feet deep, in which the palisades were to be planted;
and, our waggons, the bodys being taken off, and the fore and hind
wheels separated by taking out the pin which united the two parts
of the perch, we had ten carriages, with two horses each, to bring
the palisades from the woods to the spot. When they were set up,
our carpenters built a stage of boards all round within, about six
feet high, for the men to stand on when to fire thro' the loopholes.
We had one swivel gun, which we mounted on one of the angles,
and fir'd it as soon as fix'd, to let the Indians know, if any
were within hearing, that we had such pieces; and thus our fort,
if such a magnificent name may be given to so miserable a stockade,
was finish'd in a week, though it rain'd so hard every other day
that the men could not work.
This gave me occasion to observe, that, when men are employ'd, they
are best content'd; for on the days they worked they were good-natur'd
and cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done a good
day's work, they spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days
they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their pork,
the bread, etc., and in continual ill-humor, which put me in mind
of a sea-captain, whose rule it was to keep his men constantly
at work; and, when his mate once told him that they had done
every thing, and there was nothing further to employ them about,
"Oh," says he, "Make them scour the anchor."
This kind of fort, however contemptible, is a sufficient defense
against Indians, who have no cannon. Finding ourselves now posted
securely, and having a place to retreat to on occasion, we ventur'd
out in parties to scour the adjacent country. We met with no Indians,
but we found the places on the neighboring hills where they had lain
to watch our proceedings. There was an art in their contrivance
of those places, that seems worth mention. It being winter, a fire
was necessary for them; but a common fire on the surface of the ground
would by its light have discovered their position at a distance.
They had therefore dug holes in the ground about three feet diameter,
and somewhat deeper; we saw where they had with their hatchets cut
off the charcoal from the sides of burnt logs lying in the woods.
With these coals they had made small fires in the bottom of
the holes, and we observ'd among the weeds and grass the prints
of their bodies, made by their laying all round, with their legs
hanging down in the holes to keep their feet warm, which, with them,
is an essential point. This kind of fire, so manag'd, could not
discover them, either by its light, flame, sparks, or even smoke:
it appear'd that their number was not great, and it seems they saw
we were too many to be attacked by them with prospect of advantage.
We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, Mr. Beatty,
who complained to me that the men did not generally attend his prayers
and exhortations. When they enlisted, they were promised, besides pay
and provisions, a gill of rum a day, which was punctually serv'd
out to them, half in the morning, and the other half in the evening;
and I observ'd they were as punctual in attending to receive it;
upon which I said to Mr. Beatty, "It is, perhaps, below the dignity
of your profession to act as steward of the rum, but if you were to deal
it out and only just after prayers, you would have them all about you."
He liked the tho't, undertook the office, and, with the help of a
few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction,
and never were prayers more generally and more punctually attended;
so that I thought this method preferable to the punishment inflicted
by some military laws for non-attendance on divine service.
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 call'd the Assembly, and wished 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 compleated, and the inhabitants contented to remain on their farms
under that protection, I resolved to return; the more willingly,
as a New England officer, Colonel Clapham, experienced 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 wrapt only in a blanket or two.
While at Bethlehem, I inquir'd a little into the practice 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 observed loopholes, at certain distances all
along just under the ceiling, which I thought judiciously placed
for change of air. I was at their church, where I was entertain'd
with good musick, the organ being accompanied with violins, hautboys,
flutes, clarinets, etc. I understood that their sermons were not
usually preached to mixed 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 looked 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 and 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 recurred 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 chuse for themselves;"
which, indeed, I could not deny.
Being returned to Philadelphia, I found the association went
on swimmingly, the inhabitants that were not Quakers having pretty
generally come into it, formed themselves into companies, and chose
their captains, lieutenants, and ensigns, according to the new law.
Dr. B. visited me, and gave me an account of the pains he had taken
to spread a general good liking to the law, and ascribed much to
those endeavors. I had had the vanity to ascribe all to my Dialogue;
however, not knowing but that he might be in the right, I let him enjoy
his opinion, which I take to be generally the best way in such cases.
The officers, meeting, chose me to be colonel of the regiment,
which I this time accepted. I forget how many companies we had,
but we paraded about twelve hundred well-looking men, with a company
of artillery, who had been furnished with six brass field-pieces,
which they had become so expert in the use of as to fire twelve times
in a minute. The first time I reviewed my regiment they accompanied me
to my house, and would salute me with some rounds fired before my door,
which shook down and broke several glasses of my electrical apparatus.
And my new honour proved not much less brittle; for all our
commissions were soon after broken by a repeal of the law in England.
During this short time of my colonelship, being about to set out on
a journey to Virginia, the officers of my regiment took it into their
heads that it would be proper for them to escort me out of town,
as far as the Lower Ferry. Just as I was getting on horseback they
came to my door, between thirty and forty, mounted, and all in
their uniforms. I had not been previously acquainted with the project,
or I should have prevented it, being naturally averse to the assuming
of state on any occasion; and I was a good deal chagrin'd at
their appearance, as I could not avoid their accompanying me.
What made it worse was, that, as soon as we began to move,
they drew their swords and rode with them naked all the way.
Somebody wrote an account of this to the proprietor, and it gave him
great offense. No such honor had been paid him when in the province,
nor to any of his governors; and he said it was only proper to
princes of the blood royal, which may be true for aught I know,
who was, and still am, ignorant of the etiquette in such cases.
This silly affair, however, greatly increased his rancour against me,
which was before not a little, on account of my conduct in the
Assembly respecting the exemption of his estate from taxation,
which I had always oppos'd very warmly, and not without severe
reflections on his meanness and injustice of contending for it.
He accused me to the ministry as being the great obstacle to
the king's service, preventing, by my influence in the House,
the proper form of the bills for raising money, and he instanced
this parade with my officers as a proof of my having an intention
to take the government of the province out of his hands by force.
He also applied to Sir Everard Fawkener, the postmaster-general,
to deprive me of my office; but it had no other effect than to procure
from Sir Everard a gentle admonition.
Notwithstanding the continual wrangle between the governor
and the House, in which I, as a member, had so large a share,
there still subsisted a civil intercourse between that gentleman
and myself, and we never had any personal difference. I have
sometimes since thought that his little or no resentment against me,
for the answers it was known I drew up to his messages, might be
the effect of professional habit, and that, being bred a lawyer,
he might consider us both as merely advocates for contending clients
in a suit, he for the proprietaries and I for the Assembly.
He would, therefore, sometimes call in a friendly way to advise
with me on difficult points, and sometimes, tho' not often,
take my advice.
We acted in concert to supply Braddock's army with provisions;
and, when the shocking news arrived of his defeat, the governor sent
in haste for me, to consult with him on measures for preventing
the desertion of the back counties. I forget now the advice
I gave; but I think it was, that Dunbar should be written to,
and prevail'd with, if possible, to post his troops on the frontiers
for their protection, till, by re-enforcements from the colonies,
he might be able to proceed on the expedition. And, after my return
from the frontier, he would have had me undertake the conduct
of such an expedition with provincial troops, for the reduction
of Fort Duquesne, Dunbar and his men being otherwise employed; and he
proposed to commission me as general. I had not so good an opinion
of my military abilities as he profess'd to have, and I believe his
professions must have exceeded his real sentiments; but probably he
might think that my popularity would facilitate the raising of the men,
and my influence in Assembly, the grant of money to pay them,
and that, perhaps, without taxing the proprietary estate. Finding me
not so forward to engage as he expected, the project was dropt,
and he soon after left the government, being superseded by Captain Denny.
Before I proceed in relating the part I had in public affairs under
this new governor's administration, it may not be amiss here to give
some account of the rise and progress of my philosophical reputation.
In 1746, being at Boston, I met there with a Dr. Spence, who was lately
arrived from Scotland, and show'd me some electric experiments.
They were imperfectly perform'd, as he was not very expert; but, being on
a subject quite new to me, they equally surpris'd and pleased me.
Soon after my return to Philadelphia, our library company receiv'd
from Mr. P. Collinson, Fellow of the Royal Society of London,
a present of a glass tube, with some account of the use of it
in making such experiments. I eagerly seized the opportunity
of repeating what I had seen at Boston; and, by much practice,
acquir'd great readiness in performing those, also, which we had
an account of from England, adding a number of new ones. I say
much practice, for my house was continually full, for some time,
with people who came to see these new wonders.
To divide a little this incumbrance among my friends, I caused
a number of similar tubes to be blown at our glass-house,
with which they furnish'd themselves, so that we had at length
several performers. Among these, the principal was Mr. Kinnersley,
an ingenious neighbor, who, being out of business, I encouraged
to undertake showing the experiments for money, and drew up for him
two lectures, in which the experiments were rang'd in such order,
and accompanied with such explanations in such method, as that
the foregoing should assist in comprehending the following.
He procur'd an elegant apparatus for the purpose, in which all
the little machines that I had roughly made for myself were nicely
form'd by instrument-makers. His lectures were well attended,
and gave great satisfaction; and after some time he went thro'
the colonies, exhibiting them in every capital town, and pick'd up
some money. In the West India islands, indeed, it was with difficulty
the experiments could be made, from the general moisture of the air.
Oblig'd as we were to Mr. Collinson for his present of the tube, etc., I
thought it right he should be inform'd of our success in using it,
and wrote him several letters containing accounts of our experiments.
He got them read in the Royal Society, where they were not at first
thought worth so much notice as to be printed in their Transactions.
One paper, which I wrote for Mr. Kinnersley, on the sameness of
lightning with electricity, I sent to Dr. Mitchel, an acquaintance
of mine, and one of the members also of that society, who wrote me
word that it had been read, but was laughed at by the connoisseurs.
The papers, however, being shown to Dr. Fothergill, he thought them
of too much value to be stifled, and advis'd the printing of them.
Mr. Collinson then gave them to Cave for publication in his
Gentleman's Magazine; but he chose to print them separately in
a pamphlet, and Dr. Fothergill wrote the preface. Cave, it seems,
judged rightly for his profit, for by the additions that arrived
afterward they swell'd to a quarto volume, which has had five editions,
and cost him nothing for copy-money.
It was, however, some time before those papers were much taken notice
of in England. A copy of them happening to fall into the hands
of the Count de Buffon, a philosopher deservedly of great reputation
in France, and, indeed, all over Europe, he prevailed with M. Dalibard
to translate them into French, and they were printed at Paris.
The publication offended the Abbe Nollet, preceptor in Natural Philosophy
to the royal family, and an able experimenter, who had form'd and
publish'd a theory of electricity, which then had the general vogue.
He could not at first believe that such a work came from America,
and said it must have been fabricated by his enemies at Paris, to decry
his system. Afterwards, having been assur'd that there really existed
such a person as Franklin at Philadelphia, which he had doubted,
he wrote and published a volume of Letters, chiefly address'd to me,
defending his theory, and denying the verity of my experiments,
and of the positions deduc'd from them.
I once purpos'd answering the abbe, and actually began the answer;
but, on consideration that my writings contain'd a description
of experiments which any one might repeat and verify, and if not
to be verifi'd, could not be defended; or of observations offer'd
as conjectures, and not delivered dogmatically, therefore not
laying me under any obligation to defend them; and reflecting
that a dispute between two persons, writing in different languages,
might be lengthened greatly by mistranslations, and thence
misconceptions of one another's meaning, much of one of the abbe's
letters being founded on an error in the translation, I concluded
to let my papers shift for themselves, believing it was better
to spend what time I could spare from public business in making
new experiments, than in disputing about those already made.
I therefore never answered M. Nollet, and the event gave me no
cause to repent my silence; for my friend M. le Roy, of the Royal
Academy of Sciences, took up my cause and refuted him; my book
was translated into the Italian, German, and Latin languages;
and the doctrine it contain'd was by degrees universally adopted
by the philosophers of Europe, in preference to that of the abbe;
so that he lived to see himself the last of his sect, except Monsieur
B----, of Paris, his eleve and immediate disciple.
What gave my book the more sudden and general celebrity,
was the success of one of its proposed experiments, made by Messrs.
Dalibard and De Lor at Marly, for drawing lightning from the clouds.
This engag'd the public attention every where. M. de Lor,
who had an apparatus for experimental philosophy, and lectur'd
in that branch of science, undertook to repeat what he called
the Philadelphia Experiments; and, after they were performed before
the king and court, all the curious of Paris flocked to see them.
I will not swell this narrative with an account of that capital
experiment, nor of the infinite pleasure I receiv'd in the success
of a similar one I made soon after with a kite at Philadelphia,
as both are to be found in the histories of electricity.
Dr. Wright, an English physician, when at Paris, wrote to a friend,
who was of the Royal Society, an account of the high esteem my
experiments were in among the learned abroad, and of their wonder
that my writings had been so little noticed in England. The society,
on this, resum'd the consideration of the letters that had been read
to them; and the celebrated Dr. Watson drew up a summary account
of them, and of all I had afterwards sent to England on the subject,
which be accompanied with some praise of the writer. This summary
was then printed in their Transactions; and some members of the society
in London, particularly the very ingenious Mr. Canton, having verified
the experiment of procuring lightning from the clouds by a pointed rod,
and acquainting them with the success, they soon made me more than
amends for the slight with which they had before treated me.
Without my having made any application for that honor, they chose me
a member, and voted that I should be excus'd the customary payments,
which would have amounted to twenty-five guineas; and ever since
have given me their Transactions gratis. They also presented
me with the gold medal of Sir Godfrey Copley for the year 1753,
the delivery of which was accompanied by a very handsome speech
of the president, Lord Macclesfield, wherein I was highly honoured.
Our new governor, Captain Denny, brought over for me the before-mentioned
medal from the Royal Society, which he presented to me at an
entertainment given him by the city. He accompanied it with very
polite expressions of his esteem for me, having, as he said, been long
acquainted with my character. After dinner, when the company,
as was customary at that time, were engag'd in drinking, he took
me aside into another room, and acquainted me that he had been
advis'd by his friends in England to cultivate a friendship with me,
as one who was capable of giving him the best advice, and of
contributing most effectually to the making his administration easy;
that he therefore desired of all things to have a good understanding
with me, and he begg'd me to be assur'd of his readiness on all
occasions to render me every service that might be in his power.
He said much to me, also, of the proprietor's good disposition
towards the province, and of the advantage it might be to us all,
and to me in particular, if the opposition that had been so long
continu'd to his measures was dropt, and harmony restor'd between
him and the people; in effecting which, it was thought no one could
be more serviceable than myself; and I might depend on adequate
acknowledgments and recompenses, etc., etc. The drinkers,
finding we did not return immediately to the table, sent us
a decanter of Madeira, which the governor made liberal use of,
and in proportion became more profuse of his solicitations and promises.
My answers were to this purpose: that my circumstances, thanks to God,
were such as to make proprietary favours unnecessary to me;
and that, being a member of the Assembly, I could not possibly accept
of any; that, however, I had no personal enmity to the proprietary,
and that, whenever the public measures he propos'd should appear
to be for the good of the people, no one should espouse and forward
them more zealously than myself; my past opposition having been
founded on this, that the measures which had been urged were evidently
intended to serve the proprietary interest, with great prejudice
to that of the people; that I was much obliged to him (the governor)
for his professions of regard to me, and that he might rely on every
thing in my power to make his administration as easy as possible,
hoping at the same time that he had not brought with him the same
unfortunate instruction his predecessor had been hamper'd with.
On this he did not then explain himself; but when he afterwards came
to do business with the Assembly, they appear'd again, the disputes
were renewed, and I was as active as ever in the opposition,
being the penman, first, of the request to have a communication
of the instructions, and then of the remarks upon them, which may
be found in the votes of the time, and in the Historical Review I
afterward publish'd. But between us personally no enmity arose;
we were often together; he was a man of letters, had seen much of
the world, and was very entertaining and pleasing in conversation.
He gave me the first information that my old friend Jas. Ralph was
still alive; that he was esteem'd one of the best political writers
in England; had been employ'd in the dispute between Prince Frederic
and the king, and had obtain'd a pension of three hundred a year;
that his reputation was indeed small as a poet, Pope having damned
his poetry in the Dunciad; but his prose was thought as good as any
<15>The Assembly finally finding the proprietary obstinately persisted
in manacling their deputies with instructions inconsistent not only
with the privileges of the people, but with the service of the crown,
resolv'd to petition the king against them, and appointed me their
agent to go over to England, to present and support the petition.
The House had sent up a bill to the governor, granting a sum
of sixty thousand pounds for the king's use (ten thousand pounds
of which was subjected to the orders of the then general,
Lord Loudoun), which the governor absolutely refus'd to pass,
in compliance with his instructions.
<15> The many unanimous resolves of the Assembly--
what date?-- [Marg. note.]
I had agreed with Captain Morris, of the paquet at New York,
for my passage, and my stores were put on board, when Lord Loudoun
arriv'd at Philadelphia, expressly, as he told me, to endeavor
an accommodation between the governor and Assembly, that his
majesty's service might not be obstructed by their dissensions.
Accordingly, he desir'd the governor and myself to meet him, that he
might hear what was to be said on both sides. We met and discuss'd
the business. In behalf of the Assembly, I urg'd all the various
arguments that may be found in the public papers of that time,
which were of my writing, and are printed with the minutes of
the Assembly; and the governor pleaded his instructions; the bond he
had given to observe them, and his ruin if he disobey'd, yet seemed
not unwilling to hazard himself if Lord Loudoun would advise it.
This his lordship did not chuse to do, though I once thought I
had nearly prevail'd with him to do it; but finally he rather chose
to urge the compliance of the Assembly; and he entreated me to use
my endeavours with them for that purpose, declaring that he would
spare none of the king's troops for the defense of our frontiers,
and that, if we did not continue to provide for that defense ourselves,
they must remain expos'd to the enemy.
I acquainted the House with what had pass'd, and, presenting them
with a set of resolutions I had drawn up, declaring our rights,
and that we did not relinquish our claim to those rights, but only
suspended the exercise of them on this occasion thro' force,
against which we protested, they at length agreed to drop that bill,
and frame another conformable to the proprietary instructions.
This of course the governor pass'd, and I was then at liberty
to proceed on my voyage. But, in the meantime, the paquet
had sailed with my sea-stores, which was some loss to me,
and my only recompense was his lordship's thanks for my service,
all the credit of obtaining the accommodation falling to his share.
He set out for New York before me; and, as the time for dispatching
the paquet-boats was at his disposition, and there were two then
remaining there, one of which, he said, was to sail very soon,
I requested to know the precise time, that I might not miss her
by any delay of mine. His answer was, "I have given out that she
is to sail on Saturday next; but I may let you know, entre nous,
that if you are there by Monday morning, you will be in time,
but do not delay longer." By some accidental hinderance at a ferry,
it was Monday noon before I arrived, and I was much afraid
she might have sailed, as the wind was fair; but I was soon
made easy by the information that she was still in the harbor,
and would not move till the next day. One would imagine that I
was now on the very point of departing for Europe. I thought so;
but I was not then so well acquainted with his lordship's character,
of which indecision was one of the strongest features. I shall
give some instances. It was about the beginning of April that I
came to New York, and I think it was near the end of June before
we sail'd. There were then two of the paquet-boats, which had
been long in port, but were detained for the general's letters,
which were always to be ready to-morrow. Another paquet arriv'd;
she too was detain'd; and, before we sail'd, a fourth was expected.
Ours was the first to be dispatch'd, as having been there longest.
Passengers were engag'd in all, and some extremely impatient
to be gone, and the merchants uneasy about their letters,
and the orders they had given for insurance (it being war time)
for fall goods! but their anxiety avail'd nothing; his lordship's
letters were not ready; and yet whoever waited on him found him
always at his desk, pen in hand, and concluded he must needs
Going myself one morning to pay my respects, I found in his antechamber
one Innis, a messenger of Philadelphia, who had come from thence
express with a paquet from Governor Denny for the General.
He delivered to me some letters from my friends there, which occasion'd
my inquiring when he was to return, and where be lodg'd, that I
might send some letters by him. He told me he was order'd to call
to-morrow at nine for the general's answer to the governor, and should
set off immediately. I put my letters into his hands the same day.
A fortnight after I met him again in the same place. "So, you
are soon return'd, Innis?" "Returned! no, I am not gone yet."
"How so?" "I have called here by order every morning these two
weeks past for his lordship's letter, and it is not yet ready."
"Is it possible, when he is so great a writer? for I see him
constantly at his escritoire." "Yes," says Innis, "but he is like
St. George on the signs, always on horseback, and never rides on!"
This observation of the messenger was, it seems, well founded; for,
when in England, I understood that Mr. Pitt gave it as one reason
for removing this general, and sending Generals Amherst and Wolfe,
that the minister never heard from him, and could not know what he
This daily expectation of sailing, and all the three paquets going
down to Sandy Hook, to join the fleet there, the passengers thought
it best to be on board, lest by a sudden order the ships should sail,
and they be left behind. There, if I remember right, we were about
six weeks, consuming our sea-stores, and oblig'd to procure more.
At length the fleet sail'd, the General and all his army on board,
bound to Louisburg, with intent to besiege and take that fortress;
all the paquet-boats in company ordered to attend the General's ship,
ready to receive his dispatches when they should be ready.
We were out five days before we got a letter with leave to part,
and then our ship quitted the fleet and steered for England. The other
two paquets he still detained, carried them with him to Halifax,
where he stayed some time to exercise the men in sham attacks
upon sham forts, then alter'd his mind as to besieging Louisburg,
and return'd to New York, with all his troops, together with the two
paquets above mentioned, and all their passengers! During his
absence the French and savages had taken Fort George, on the frontier
of that province, and the savages had massacred many of the garrison
I saw afterwards in London Captain Bonnell, who commanded one
of those paquets. He told me that, when he had been detain'd
a month, he acquainted his lordship that his ship was grown foul,
to a degree that must necessarily hinder her fast sailing, a point
of consequence for a paquet-boat, and requested an allowance
of time to heave her down and clean her bottom. He was asked
how long time that would require. He answer'd, three days.
The general replied, "If you can do it in one day, I give leave;
otherwise not; for you must certainly sail the day after to-morrow."
So he never obtain'd leave, though detained afterwards from day
to day during full three months.
I saw also in London one of Bonnell's passengers, who was so enrag'd
against his lordship for deceiving and detaining him so long
at New York, and then carrying him to Halifax and back again,
that he swore he would sue for damages. Whether he did or not,
I never heard; but, as he represented the injury to his affairs,
it was very considerable.
On the whole, I wonder'd much how such a man came to be intrusted
with so important a business as the conduct of a great army;
but, having since seen more of the great world, and the means
of obtaining, and motives for giving places, my wonder is diminished.
General Shirley, on whom the command of the army devolved upon
the death of Braddock, would, in my opinion, if continued in place,
have made a much better campaign than that of Loudoun in 1757,
which was frivolous, expensive, and disgraceful to our nation
beyond conception; for, tho' Shirley was not a bred soldier, he was
sensible and sagacious in himself, and attentive to good advice
from others, capable of forming judicious plans, and quick and active
in carrying them into execution. Loudoun, instead of defending
the colonies with his great army, left them totally expos'd while
he paraded idly at Halifax, by which means Fort George was lost,
besides, he derang'd all our mercantile operations, and distress'd
our trade, by a long embargo on the exportation of provisions,
on pretence of keeping supplies from being obtain'd by the enemy,
but in reality for beating down their price in favor of the contractors,
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