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the Duty of all Persons to serve the country they live in,” and a resolution on his own part “to do for the future all that lies in my way for the service of my Countrymen.” Thus even his earliest essays show that sense of humor and that imaginative idealism which seeks to express itself in actions useful to mankind. These Dogood papers may well serve as models of clear and forceful English—yet they are the work of a lad of 16 who had had practically no ordinary schooling. But Franklin would not have us believe that his was a rare talent beyond the attainment of others. He tells us how his father found some of his papers and how— he took occasion to talk to me about the manner of my writing; observed that * * * I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method, and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. I saw the justice of his remarks, and thence grew more attentive to the manner in writing and determined to endeavor at improvement. Further incentive came to him from the tales overheard in his brother's printing office at the approbation given certain ingenious contributors to the New England Courant. He, too, “was excited to try his hand among them ’’ and wrote an anonymous paper, which was tucked under the door of the printing house. It was read in the morning and he had “the exquisite pleasure of finding it met with approbation.” Thus, after he had been led by his father to recognize his shortcomings and had himself come to see that an effective style of writing was eminently worth while, he inaugurated that well-known series of experiments and exercises by which he sought to improve his English through contact with the best that has been taught and said in the world. Hence his power of expression was not a gift of the gods, which sprang full-grown from the brain of a genius, but was the result of self-imposed discipline for the satisfaction of a personal need. Though most of his spare time was devoted to books, Franklin was no recluse. He formed close friendships with “bookish lads” and frequently tried his powers of argument with them in debate. At first he was “overbearing and rather insolent” and given to positive and dogmatic statements, a turn of mind which he “had caught by reading his father's books of dispute about religion.” But a Quaker friend objected to this, and having “convinced me by mentioning several instances, I determined to cure myself of this folly.” The reading of Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates suggested the idea of substituting for this habit of “abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation,” the modest diffidence of “a humble inquirer and doubter.” He found this habit very effective in dealing with men, and therefore “took a delight in it, practiced it continually ” and thus acquired that power of stirring the imagination and “per114638°–19—2
suading men into measures that I have been from time to time engaged in promoting.” Notwithstanding his aversion to religious disputes and although the “dogmas of the Presbyterians . . . appeared to him unintelligible, and he early absented himself from the assemblies of the sect.” Franklin was much impressed in his boyhood by the work of the benefit societies which Cotton Mather had established in Massachusetts. These societies met for the discussion, not of disputed doctrines, but of such questions as–
Is there any remarkable disorder in the place that requires our endeavor for the suppression of it; and in what fair, likely way may we endeavor it? Does there appear any instance of oppression or fraudulence in the dealings of any sort of people that may call for our essays to get it rectified? Is there any matter to be humbly moved into the legislative power to be enacted into a law for public benefit?
The effect on Franklin of these discussions of the moral obligations of citizens in the practical affairs of life appears in the organization of the Junto in 1727. This club had no constitution defining its purpose and the duties of its officers. Instead there was a series of queries which each member was expected to read daily and to consider carefully, in order to be ready for discussion at the next meeting. The following are typical:
Have you read over these queries this morning in order to consider what you might have to offer the Junto touching any one of them? Wiz: Have you met with anything in the author you last read, remarkable or suitable to be communicated to the Junto, particularly in History, morality, poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge? Have you lately heard of any citizens thriving well, and by what means? What happy effects of temperance, of prudence, of moderation, or any other virtue have you lately observed or heard? Have you, or any of your acquaintance, been lately sick or wounded? If so, what remedies were used, and what were their effects? Do you think of anything at present in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind, to their country, to their friends, or to themselves? Have you lately observed any defect in the laws of your country, of which it would be proper to move the legislature for an amendment? or do you know of any beneficial law that is wanting? Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people?
These general queries were designed to stimulate the members to formulate specific topics for discussion, since—
the rules required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of morals, politics, or natural philosophy, to be discussed by the company, and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory.
So great was the vitality of this organization that it continued its activity for more than 40 years and— was the best school of philosophy, morality, and politics that then existed in the province; for our queries, which were read the week preceding their discussion, put us upon reading with attention upon the several subjects, that we might speak more to the purpose; and here, too, we acquired better habits of conversation, everything being studied in our rules which might prevent our disgusting each other. In the preparation of their papers for the Junto, the boys had great difficulty in securing books. At Franklin's suggestion they “ clubbed their books to a common library” so that each might have the benefits of all. From this it was but a short step to his “first project of a public nature, that for a subscription library.” This “mother of all the North American subscription libraries” spread its influence in the colonies and was the means of making “the common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen in other countries, and perhaps contributed in some degree to the stand so generally made throughout the colonies in defence of their privileges.” The uses of the Junto were not confined to the amusement and education of its members. Pt was the parent of a number of similar organizations and furnished a center from which new plans for public welfare could be initiated and disseminated. Backed by the newspaper which Franklin edited, it was instrumental in carrying into effect such useful projects as the organization of police and fire departments, of militia, of a hospital, of an academy for the education of the youth of Pennsylvania, and of a system of cleaning and paving the streets. To such an extent did Franklin become the mentor of public progress in Philadelphia that “there was no such thing as carrying a public spirited project through, without my being concerned in it.” Franklin devoted only his spare time to these enterprises for the public welfare; but this wise use of his overtime resulted in public benefit and also strengthened and built up his own business which was that of a printer. In this capacity he published a newspaper which contained real news, and discussed morality and other matters of public interest. He made the paper pay by means of his original system of business advertisements. His Almanack, for 25 years the most widely read publication in America, was filled with “proverbial sentences, chiefly such as inculcated industry and frugality as a means of procuring wealth and thereby securing virtue.” “I endeavored to make it both entertaining and useful, and it accordingly came to be in such demand that I reaped considerable profit from it.” In 1737 Franklin was appointed deputy postmaster of Philadelphia, a position which he found “to be of great advantage; for, though the salary was small, it facilitated the correspondence that improved my newspaper, increased the number demanded as well as the advertisements to be inserted, so that it came to afford me a considerable income.” Later, as Postmaster General of the Colonies, he reformed the whole postal service of the country, so that for the first time it yielded a revenue to the Crown. In time he was displaced by a “freak of the ministers” and “since that imprudent transaction they have received from it—not one farthing!” Not only was Franklin a very practical business man, but he successfully advertised the reasons for business success through the sayings of Poor Richard: “Honesty is the best Policy; Drive thy Business, let not that drive Thee; Many Words will not fill a Bushel; a small Leak will sink a great Ship; he that lives upon Hope will die fasting; a Ploughman on his Legs is higher than a Gentleman on his Knees.” Many of these “gleanings from the Sense of All Ages and Nations” were published in 1757 in a pamphlet called “The Way to Wealth' which Franklin modestly says “some thought had its share of influence in producing that growing plenty of money which was observable for several years after its publication.” The influence of Franklin on the economics of the country did not end in Poor Richard's injunctions to the people. In 1729 he published a “Modest Inquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency” in which he concludes that “the riches of a country are to be valued by the quantity of labor its inhabitants are able to purchase.” This idea that labor is the measure and the creator of wealth was elaborated 46 years later by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations. The autobiography makes little mention either of Franklin's scientific work or of his extensive correspondence on questions of electricity, meteorology, and medicine. These seem to have been to him merely amusements with which to beguile the time not devoted to his trade or to his labors in the service of his fellow men. Yet his experiment with the kite is perhaps the finest example of that imagination and fearless faith which are the motive power of science. His experiments won him recognition as a leader among his scientific contemporaries and his theory of electricity is prominent to-day in the discussions that have sprung from the recent discoveries in physics. The American Philosophical Society, which he established in 1744 for the purpose of making a cooperative attack on the scientific problems that perplexed him, is still in a flourishing condition. It was fortunate for the colonies that they had a man like Franklin to represent them at the court of France during the American Revolution. His integrity, courage, and resourcefulness; his commonsense judgment, and scientific attitude of mind; his humor, love of service and deep understanding of men; and his practical business sense all combined to make him win the adoration of the French people. He became to them a personification of the American spirit of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Early in life Franklin “conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.” To attain this end he inaugurated a definite campaign for the acquisition of the 13 virtues that “occurred to me as necessary or desirable.” But the scheme could not for long be confined in its operation to Franklin alone and accordingly he purposed writing “the Art of Virtue,” not a “mere exhortation to be good, that does not instruct and indicate the means” but designed to show “the means and manner of obtaining virtue.” The plan never was realized, as the “project required the whole man to execute, and an unforseen succession of employs prevented my attending to it.” “But though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so anxious at attaining, yet I was by the endeavor a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been.”
His religion was broadly human, embracing the good in all sects. He was intolerant of the discourses of the minister whose aim seemed to be “rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens.” To him the day's work was the basis of religion, the workshop the temple of God, and—
God Himself a Mechanic, the greatest in the Universe; and He is respected and admired more for the Variety, Ingenuity and Utility of His Handyworks, than for the Antiquity of His Family. . . . The Scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined what we thought, but what we did; and our recommendation will not be that we said, “Lord, Lord ' " but that we did good to our fellow creatures.
Franklin's idea on education are expressed in his two papers that deal with the English Academy in Philadelphia. In the first of these, published in 1749, he advocates the establishment of a school in which the chief subjects of instruction shall be English, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and history—“those things that are likely to be most useful and most ornamental; regard being had to the several professions for which they are intended.”
These subjects should not, however, be treated in the ordinary didactic manner; for—
if History is made a constant part of their reading, may not almost all kinds of useful knowledge be that way introduced to advantage, and with pleasure to the students. As Geography, by reading with maps, and being required to point out the places where the greatest actions were done. Ancient Customs, religious and civil, being frequently mentioned in history will give occasion for explaining them. Morality, by making continual observation on the causes of the rise and fall of any man's character, fortune and power mentioned in history. Indeed, the general natural tendency of reading good history must be to fix in the minds of the youth deep impresssions of the beauty and usefulness virtue of all kinds, public spirit and fortitude.