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From Boyhood to Manhood
More Honors and More Work
by Thayer, William M.


Franklin, in 1736, was chosen Clerk of the General Assembly, and in 1737 appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia. The first position assured him all the Government printing, and introduced him to influential men, who would very naturally become the patrons of his printing house. The second position was of great value to his newspaper, as it "facilitated the correspondence that improved it, and increased its circulation" quite largely, thus making it a source of considerable income. Members of the Junto were as much pleased with his promotion as Franklin himself.

"We are not at all surprised," said Coleman to Colonel Spotswood; "we are familiar with Franklin; I mean, we members of the Junto, as no other persons are. He will fill ably any position you can give him."

"That was my estimate of the man," answered Spotswood, who was Postmaster-General; "and so I appointed him my deputy here. From all I could learn of him, I thought he would be exact in his way of doing business and reporting to the Government. His predecessor was careless, and even neglectful, so that it was difficult to get any sort of a report from him."

"You will find no trouble with Franklin on that score," rejoined Coleman. "He is one of the most exact men I ever knew, and his judgment is remarkable for one of his years. He appears to succeed in whatever he undertakes because of his sound judgment, and great capacity for work. His appointment as Postmaster of Philadelphia gives great satisfaction."

"I thought it would," continued Spotswood. "The position should be occupied by a wise man, who challenges public confidence and respect."

"And Franklin is the wisest man I ever knew," interjected Coleman. "We see him in this role, in the Junto, as men outside do not. For he lays before us his plans, and reads important articles that he writes, on various subjects, for criticism, before they are published. He has just read a paper on the 'Night-watch,' exposing the worthlessness of the present system, and proposing a remedy; also, another paper on establishing a fire-department for the town. When made public, both of these measures will commend themselves to the people."

The discussion over the night-watch and fire-department in the Junto was both animated and instructive. Both projects were entirely new, and were born of Franklin's fertile brain.

"The most cumbersome and awkward arrangement I ever heard of," said Franklin, in the Junto; "to have the constable of each ward, in turn, summon to his aid several housekeepers for the night, and such ragamuffins as most of them summon to their assistance!"

"A glass of grog will enlist some of them for a whole night," remarked Parsons. "I think the town is safer without any watchmen, unless more responsible men can be employed."

"Of course it is," responded Coleman; "the six shillings paid annually to the constable by each man who does not wish to serve is a corruption fund. The constable can pocket three-fourths of it, and, with the other fourth, he can employ the irresponsible characters he does. I wonder the people don't rebel."

"That is not all, nor the worst," remarked Breintnal. "A poor widow, with less than fifty pounds to her name, must pay the six shillings just as the wealthiest citizen, with thousands of pounds in his own right, does. It is very unjust."

"And my plan removes all of these difficulties and burdens," added Franklin. "I propose to hire suitable men, whose business shall be to watch at night, levying a tax to pay for the same in proportion to property. A man who makes it his business to watch is worth much more than one who occasionally serves under the present system."

Franklin ventilated the subject in the Gazette, eliciting remarks pro and con, gradually educating the people; and finally, after several years, he had the satisfaction of seeing his plan adopted. Franklin was the author of the "Night-watch" system of our land.

His paper on the frequency of fires, from carelessness and accidents, with suggestions as to preventing them and, also, extinguishing them, elicited equal interest in the Junto.

"Your suggestion to organize a company to extinguish fires is a capital one," remarked Potts, after listening to Franklin's paper. "It is not only practical, but it can be done very easily; every citizen must appreciate the measure."

"If I understand the plan," remarked Maugridge, "each member will be obliged to keep several leathern buckets, in order for instant use, and strong bags, for receiving goods to be conveyed to a place of safety, will be provided."

"Yes; and the members must be so well organized and drilled, that when a fire breaks out, each will know just what to do," added Franklin. "It will be necessary for the members of the company to meet monthly, or oftener, to exchange views and make suggestions as to the best way of conducting the organization. Experience will teach us very much."

"How many members should the organization embrace?" inquired Scull.

"That is immaterial," replied Coleman; "a large or small number can be used to advantage, I should say."

"The company must not be too large," responded Franklin. "I should think that thirty members would be as many as could work to advantage. If double that number desire to become members it would be better to organize two companies, to work in different wards."

"And how about money? Can't maintain such an organization without money," suggested Potts.

"We can raise money for the outfit of leathern buckets and bags by subscription," replied Franklin; "and we can impose a fine upon members for being absent from meetings."

"Then, why is not the whole subject fairly before us?" remarked Coleman. "I move that we proceed to organize a fire-company of thirty members at once."

Coleman's proposition was adopted unanimously. Franklin discussed the plan in the Gazette, and all the members of the Junto worked hard for it outside. Within a short time the first company was organized, then another, and another, the good work continuing until a large part of the property-owners in town belonged to fire-companies. And this method continued until the invention of fire-engines, fire-hooks, and ladders, with other modern implements to assist in extinguishing fires. Franklin was the originator of fire-companies.

"It is high time that our people were thinking of paving the streets," said Franklin, at a meeting of the Junto. "It will facilitate cleaning them wonderfully."

"You must give us a paper on the subject, and write it up in the Gazette," replied Parsons. "People must be enlightened before they will adopt the measure. The mass of them know nothing about it now."

"You are right," responded Franklin; "and it will take a good while to enlighten them. The expense of the measure will frighten them."

"How expensive will such a measure be? What does paving cost a square yard?"

"I am not able to say now; I have not examined that part of it yet; but I shall. I will prepare a paper for the Junto at the earliest possible date."

Franklin had canvassed the subject considerably before he introduced it to the members of the Junto. In wet weather the mud in the streets was trodden into a quagmire, and quantities of it carried on the feet into stores and houses. In dry weather the wind blew the abundance of dust into the faces and eyes of pedestrians, and into the doors and windows of dwellings and shops. In his paper, read at the Junto, Franklin set forth these discomforts, with others, and showed how the evil would be remedied by pavement. The members of the Junto were unanimous in supporting his views.

From week to week he discussed the subject in the Gazette, literally giving line upon line and precept upon precept. Nor did he seem to make much of an impression for many months. But, finally, a strip of brick pavement having been laid down the middle of Jersey Market, he succeeded in getting the street leading thereto paved.

"Now I have a project to enlist citizens in paving all the streets," he said at the Junto. "I have hired a poor man to sweep the pavement now laid, and keep it as clean and neat as a pin, that citizens may see for themselves the great benefit of paving the streets."

"That is practical," exclaimed Coleman. "You are always practical, Franklin; and you will make a success of that."

"I expect to succeed. After two or three weeks I shall address a circular to all housekeepers enjoying the advantages of the pavement, asking them to join with me in paying a sixpence each per month to keep the pavement clean."

"A sixpence a month only!" responded Potts, who had listened to Franklin's plan; "is that all it will cost?"

"Yes, that is all; and I think that all will be surprised that the work can be done for that price; and, for that reason, they will readily join in the measure."

Franklin went forward with his enterprise, and every citizen appealed to accepted his proposition; and out of it grew a general interest to pave the streets of the city. Franklin drafted a bill to be presented to the General Assembly, authorizing the work to be done; and, through the influence of another party, the bill was amended by a provision for lighting the streets at the same time, all of which was agreeable to Franklin. Here, again, we see that Franklin was the originator of another method of adding to the comfort and beauty of cities and large towns.

"I will read you a paper to-night upon smoky chimneys," remarked Franklin at the Junto, as he drew from his pocket a written document.

"Smoky chimneys!" ejaculated Grace. "I wonder what will command your attention next. A fruitful theme, though I never expected we should discuss it here."

"It is, indeed, a fruitful theme," responded Franklin; "for more chimneys carry some of the smoke into the room than carry the whole out of the top; and nobody can tell why."

"I had supposed it was because masons do not understand the philosophy of chimney-building," remarked Coleman.

"That is it exactly. The subject is not understood at all, because it has not been examined. Men build chimneys as they do, not because they know it is the best way, but because they do not know any thing about it. For instance, nearly every one thinks that smoke is lighter than air, when the reverse is true."

"I always had that idea," remarked Potts; "not because I knew that it was, but somehow I got that impression. But let us have your paper, and then we will discuss it."

Franklin read his paper, which was more elaborate and exhaustive than any thing of the kind ever published at that time. It named several definite causes of smoky chimneys, and furnished a remedy for each. What is still more remarkable, it suggested a plan of a fire-place or stove, that might remedy the smoking evil of some chimneys, and save much fuel in all. Subsequently, he invented what is known as the Franklin stove, or fire-place, though it was sometimes called the "Pennsylvania stove." It was regarded as a very useful invention, and, for many years, was in general use.

"Apply for a patent on your stove," suggested Coleman; "there is much money in it; and you ought to have it if any one."

"Not I," responded Franklin. "I am not a believer in patents. If the invention is a real public benefit, the people should have the advantage of it."

"Nonsense," retorted Coleman; "no one but you harbors such an idea. I do not see why a man should not receive pay for his invention as much as another does for a day's work."

"And there is no reason why the inventor should not give the public the benefit of it, if he chooses," answered Franklin. "Governor Thomas offered to give me a patent on it, but I told him this: As we enjoy great advantages from the invention 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."

"And nobody will ever thank you for it," added Coleman.

"I don't ask them to thank me for it; I give it to them without asking one thank-you for it," replied Franklin, who was in a very happy mood.

"Well," added Coleman, "the more I see of you, the more I am satisfied that there is but one Ben Franklin in these parts."

In brief, we may add here, that Franklin presented the model to a member of the Junto, Robert Grace, who run a furnace, and, for many years, "he found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing."

Still another enterprise which Franklin brought to the attention of the Junto was the founding of an Academy or University for the higher education of youth. He wrote often and much for the Gazette upon doing more for the education of the young. At last, he prepared and printed a pamphlet, entitled "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania." It was published at his own expense and gratuitously distributed, after it had been read in the Junto, where he disclosed his purpose.

"It is the greatest enterprise you have conceived yet," remarked Parsons, after listening to the paper, "and it will be the most difficult one to push forward to success, I think."

"Five thousand pounds is a great amount of money to raise," said Breintnal. "I should not want to be the one to raise it."

"I should, if I could," retorted Franklin. "To be the author of so great a blessing to the young is pay enough without any salary. At any rate, that is all the pay any man will get for such service."

"Do you propose to raise the money yourself?" inquired Coleman.

"Chiefly. I expect that interested parties may assist on that line. The fact that the enterprise is to bless their own children, gives me access to them at once. First of all, however, I propose to send this pamphlet, printed, to a long list of persons upon whom I shall call for aid, after ample time for them to read and digest it has elapsed."

It is sufficient to say that Franklin successfully prosecuted his purpose, raised all the money necessary, and the academy was founded. Scholars multiplied so rapidly that larger quarters were soon demanded; and now came into use the building which Franklin caused to be erected for the use of Rev. Mr. Whitefield. With some alterations, it was just the building necessary to meet the wants of the popular institution. Franklin was glad when he secured the building for Whitefield; but he was more glad now because it could be used for the "University of Philadelphia," as his school was named afterwards.

Perhaps the Junto did not give attention to a more important measure in its whole history than that of establishing militia for public security. Franklin read a paper, having the caption, "Plain Truth," in which he expatiated upon the defenseless condition of Pennsylvania; that, while New England was all aglow with enthusiasm for armed defense against foreign invasion, and some of the southern colonies as well, Pennsylvania was utterly defenseless.

"There is not a battery, fort, or gun, on the banks of the Delaware," he said; "not a volunteer company in the whole Province; and what is still more alarming, not guns enough to arm one."

"Our people don't believe in resistance, you know," responded Coleman. "Quaker influence is decidedly against shot-guns and batteries."

"And that is the trouble," retorted Franklin. "The Legislatures of other Provinces have established public defenses; but the Quaker influence in the Assembly of Pennsylvania has defeated every measure of the kind."

"And will continue to do so until a French privateer seizes and sacks this town, as one could very easily," added Parsons.

"Or a tribe of savages, so easily set on by French politicians, shall plunder and burn us," added Franklin.

"But John Penn and Thomas Penn are not Quakers, like their father, I have been told," remarked Potts; "and certainly the Province has not had Quaker governors."

"That is very true; but so many of the people are Quakers that the Assembly is under their control," answered Franklin. "But I think the appearance of a privateer in the river, or an attack by a band of blood-thirsty savages, would knock the non-resistance out of many of them."

"Nothing short of that will," responded Coleman; "but Franklin's plan of raising a volunteer militia, and all necessary funds by subscription, will not call out any opposition from them. I believe that many of them will be glad to have such defense if they are not expected to engage in it."

"It is not true, even now, that all the Quakers oppose defensive war: for some of them do not; they have told me so," continued Franklin. "They oppose aggressive warfare; but let a privateer come up the river, or savages attack our town, and they will fight for their homes as hard as any of us."

"But how do you propose to reach the public, and interest them in your plan?" inquired Maugridge.

"I shall publish the paper I have read, with some additions, suggested by our discussion, and distribute it freely throughout the town. At the same time, I shall discuss it in the Gazette, and appeal to Quakers themselves, on Bible grounds, to co-operate for the public defense. And when they have had time to read the pamphlet and weigh the proposition, I shall call a public meeting."

"Wise again, Franklin," answered Coleman, who was delighted with the plan. "Your scheme will work to a charm; I have no doubt of it. But just what will you do at your public meeting?"

"Organize an 'Association for Defense,' after I have harangued the audience upon the perils of the hour. I shall urge every man present, as he values his home and life, to join the league, of whatever sect or party."

"Each man to arm himself at his own expense, I suppose?" inquired Grace.

"As far as possible," answered Franklin; "and to raise money for a battery, I have thought of a lottery." Lotteries were generally resorted to, at that day, for raising money.

"That scheme for raising a battery will succeed, too," said Coleman with a smile. "I can not see why the whole thing will not carry the public by storm."

The plan of Franklin succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations. His pamphlet and articles in the Gazette moved the public to great enthusiasm. When the public meeting was called, there was a general rush to it. It was held in the large building erected for Rev. Mr. Whitefield, and it was filled to overflowing. Twelve hundred men joined the "Association for Public Defense" on that night, and the number was increased to ten thousand within a few days. Within a few weeks, eighty companies were organized in the Province, armed, and drilled, ready to march to any point of danger at a moment's warning. The companies in Philadelphia united to form a regiment, and Franklin was elected Colonel--an honor which he declined because he "considered himself unfit," and recommended a Mr. Lawrence, who was a prominent and influential citizen.

The lottery scheme succeeded, also, and eighteen cannon were borrowed of the Governor of New York until the authorities could import the requisite number from England. Not a few Quakers approved of these measures for the public defense.

In the midst of the excitement Franklin intensified the feeling, by inducing the Governor to appoint a day of fasting and prayer. Such a day had never been observed in Pennsylvania, and so the Governor and his associates were too ignorant of the measure to undertake it alone. Hence, Franklin, who was familiar with Fast Days in Massachusetts, wrote the proclamation for the Governor, and secured the co-operation of ministers in the observance of the day.

It is claimed that Quakers often lent their influence to defensive warfare in an indirect manner. As, for example, when the Assembly made appropriations for the army, "for the purchase of bread, flour, wheat and other grain," the latter phrase covered gunpowder. Perhaps this suggested to Franklin, when trying to get an appropriation through the Assembly, the following remark: "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."

The fears of the colonists were allayed, and these warlike preparations discontinued, when the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was declared, and signed by the British Commissioners, Oct. 7, 1748.

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