Page images
PDF
EPUB

prevent him.

The discovery of such talents had their effect at once upon Franklin's career. Whilst his brother acted towards him only as a master, and a rather peevish master too, Benjamin felt a little inflated, perhaps, by the consideration now paid to him, and the consciousness of possessing unusual talents. Quarrels soon took place between them; and these ended in a separation.

Unable to obtain employment in his native town on account of the representations of his brother, Franklin quitted Boston for New York. This be did clandestinely, for fear his friends might

At New York he met with no success; but was told by the only printer there that his son, in Philadelphia, was in want of a workman. Off, accordingly, young Franklin started, and after many mishaps, landed at Market Wharf, Philadelphia, on Sunday morning.

“I was," says he, “in my working-dress, as my best clothes were being sent after me. I was dirty from being so long in the boat, my pockets were stuffed out with shirts and stockings, and I knew no one, nor where to look for lodgings. Fatigued with walking, rowing, and the want of sleep, I was very hungry, and my whole stock of cash consisted of a single dollar, and about a shilling in copper coin, which I gave to the boatmen for my passage.

At first they refused it on account of my having rowed, but I insisted on their taking it. Man is sometimes more generous when he has little money than when he has plenty: perhaps to prevent his being thought to have little. I walked towards the top of the street, gazing about, still in Market Street, where I met a boy with bread. I had often made a meal of dry bread; and inquiring where he had bought it, I went immediately to the baker's he directed me to. Not knowing the different prices of bread, nor the names of the different sorts, I told him to give me three pennyworth of any sort. He gave me, accordingly, three great puffy rolls. I was surprised at the quantity, but took it, and, having no room in my pockets, walked off with a roll under each arm, and eating the other. Thus I went up Market Street as far as Fourth Street, passing by the door of Mr. Reed, my future wife's father, where she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance."

At one of the two printing-offices of Philadelphia, Franklin obtained work; but, deluded by false hopes, he paid a visit to England. In two years he returned to Philadelphia, and the experience and reputation he had gained enabled him very soon to establish himself in business.

His prudence and excellent judgment made his advice sought for and prized; and at the age of thirty he was chosen Clerk of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania.

When disagreement commenced between Great Britain and her colonies, he, being in the mother country, did all in his power to promote a reconciliation. Perceiving no prospect of success, he returned home in 1755, and on the very day after his return was elected Member of Congress for the State of Pennsylvania.

He became an earnest advocate for the independence of the United States, and at the close of the year 1776, was sent as ambassador to the court of France. He devoted himself to the duties of his high office with true and untiring patriotism; and his negotiations, conducted with his characteristic prudence, were highly beneficial to the interests of his nation.

In the autumn of 1785, he returned to Philadelphia. His native country had received her acknowledged seat among the nations, and the vencrable statesman was welcomed with affectionate gratitude. In his favorite philosophical studies, with occasional attention to public business, he passed his remaining years, cheerful and useful to the last.

He died on the 17th of April, 1790, having lived eighty-four years and three months, happily to himself, and usefully to his country and to mankind.

FRANKLIN'S KITE. In the summer of the year 1725, occurred the most remarkable incident in Franklin's life.

The electrical nature of lightning had been vaguely talked of by many writers, but it was Franklin who proved and established this most important scientific fact. In the year 1749 he traced all the points of resemblance between lightning and electricity in a paper which concludes thus-"The electric fluid is attracted by points. We do not know whether this property be in light

ning; but since they agree in all the particulars in which we can already compare them, it is not improbable that they agree likewise in this. Let the experiment be made.” And he conceived the sublime idea of drawing down lightning from the clouds by means of sharp-pointed iron rods.

He proposed to erect on some high tower, or other elevated place, a sentry-box, from which should rise a pointed iron rod, insulated by being fixed in a cake of resin. As thunder clouds passed over it, they would, if his electrical theory were correct, communicate a portion of electricity to the rod, which would be evident by sparks when a key, the knuckle, or other conductor, was presented to it. This kind of experiment was not practicable in Philadelphia, but a spire was about to be erected in the city which he thought might be made available. Whilst waiting for it, he one day observed a boy flying a kite, and it struck him that here was a method of reaching the clouds preferable to

any other.

He took a large silk handkerchief, and stretched it over two cross sticks. To the upright stick he fastened an iron point. Soon after, a thunder-storm coming on, he went out to the field, in which there was a shed, having no one with him but his son; for, with his usual prudence, he communicated his design to no other person lest he might fail. His son assisted him to raise the kite by the hempen cord: to the end of the cord he fastened a key; below the key a silk string secured this to a post.

Franklin then waited under the shed. A thunder-storm passed over without producing any effect. For some time there was no signs of electricity. Franklin began to despair, when he observed some loose threads of the hempen string rise and stand erect, exactly as if repelled from each other by being charged with electricity. He presented his knuckle to the key, and drew from it the well-known electrical spark. His emotion was so great that he heaved a deep sigh, and he felt that he could at that moment willingly have died. Indeed, as he well knew, his life was greatly bazarded by this bold experiment; for as the rain increased, the key gave out its electricity copiously; and had the hemp been thoroughly wet, it is believed he would not have survived.

But Franklin lived to make many other similar experiments. He brought down the lightning into his house by means of an iron rod, and leisurely applied it to various uses for perfecting his theory. To him we owe the simple, cheap, effective plan of preserving buildings from lightning-by means of a pointed metallic rod, raised above the building, and communicating at the lower end with the earth. This lightning-rod ought to be in use far more generally than it is.

COAL.*

There are two words, each of only four letters, but names of the two most valuable minerals in the world—COAL and Gold.

No two minerals are more valuable, none more opposite in outward appearance.

The one is bright and dazzling, the other black and forbidding. The one the miser's delight, the other every man's comfort. The one is stored up in banks and bank-cellars, the other in coalfields and coal-mines.

The one soils the mind of him who hugs it as a miser, the other soils only the face and fingers of him who gets it as a miner. The one appears to show the country's wealth, the other really shows it. The main source of English wealth is coal ; and if it were all replaced by sand and earth, containing gold, we should be great losers by the exchange. Upon reflection it will be seen that if our mines of the precious metals were closed at once, and if our diggings of gold were at once cleared out or not yet found; in brief, if gold and silver were no longer to be had for our use, society would, after certain changes in the value of things, go on as before. On the other hand, let our country lose its coal, and it is not easy to see how the people could hold together as before.

No uation, however well off in other respects, if it have not plenty of this invaluable mineral, can hope to rival nations that are so supplied, at least in most branches of manufactures.

* The coal product of the world in the year 1853, was estimated at 75,000,000 tons ; of which amount 40,000,000 tons were produced by Great Britain, and 9,000,000 by the United States. The consumption of coal in the United States has nearly doubled in four years.

The more

To what is the astonishing increase of Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, and above all, Newcastle-on-Tyne, owing, but the presence and working of coal ? And to what can the declining, or at least not thriving state of Canterbury, Winchester, Bath, Salisbury, and the other towns in the south of England, be owing, but to the absence of coal ! you consider it, the more you will be inclined to believe, that the abundance of coal in the north, and its scarcity and high price in the south of England, is the real cause of this striking difference.

Nearness to coal-fields has had a far more important effect on cities and towns than most men would expect. Take only one example, that of the small central coal-field of England. Its area scarcely equals that of the larger Scottish lakes, and yet that limited coal-field has made Birmingham a great and flourishing town—the first iron depôt in Europe; and it has filled the country round it with crowded towns and villages.

Think only of what the coal from the Staffordshire coal-field has done? How many thousand steam-engines has it set in motion ? How many thousand railway-trains has it driven across the country? How many thousand wagon-loads of salt has it drawn out of the brine? How many million tons of iron has it raised to the surface of the earth, smelted, and hammered ?

Our Coal, and Coal-fields.

JAMES WATT AND THE STEAM-ENGINE. It was some time in 1764 that the Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University desired Watt to repair a pretty model of Newcomen's steam-engine. This model was at first a plaything to Watt and Robinson, then a constant visitor at his workshop; but, like everything which came into his hands, it soon became an object of most serious study.

He soon saw the mechanical defects of this engine; and went to work considering harder than ever. But do our readers know the principle of the steam-engine ? In a few words we will endeavour to explain it. First, here is this fact; a pint of water may be expanded by heat into two hundred and sixteen gallons of

« PreviousContinue »