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Philadelphia. " I then asked for a three-penny loaf. They made no loaves of that price. Finding myself ignorant of the prices as well as of the different kinds of bread, I desired him to let me have three-pennyworth of bread of some kind or other. He gave me three large rolls. surprised at receiving so much : I took them, however, and having no room in my pockets, I walked on with a roll under each arm, eating the third. In this manner I went through Market-street to Fourth-street, and passed the house of Mr. Read, the father of my future wife. She was standing at the door, observed me, and thought, with reason, that I made a very singular and grotesque appearance."
Notwithstanding this unpromising commencement, Franklin soon
met with employment in his business, working under one Keimer, a very indifferent printer, though at that time almost the only one in Philadelphia. In 1724, encouraged by the specious promises of sir William Keith, governor of the province, Franklin sailed for England, with a view of purchasing materials for setting up a press; though his father, to whom he had applied, prudently declined encouraging the plan, on account of bis extremne youth, as he was then only eighteen. On his arrival in England, he had the mortification to find that the governor, who had pretended to give him letters of recominendation, and of credit for the sum required for his purchases, had only deceived him; and he was obliged to work at his trade in London for a maintenance. The most exemplary industry, frugality, and temperance, with great quickness and skill in his business, both as a pressman and as a compositor, made this rather a lucrative situation. He reformed the workmen in the houses where he was employed, which were, first Mr. Palmer's, and afterwards Mr. Watts's, in Wild-street, Lincoln's-inn-fields, by whom he was treated with a kindness which he always remembered. Desirous, however, of returning to Philadelphia, he engaged himself as book-keeper to a inerchant, at fifty pounds a year; “ wbich,” says he, “was less than I earned as a compositor.” He left England July 23, 1726, and reached Philadelphia early in October. In 1727, Mr. Denham tbe merchant died, and Franklin returned to bis occupation as a printer, under Keimer, his first master, with a handsome salary. But it was not long before he set up for himself in the same business, in
concert with one Meredith, a young man whose father was opulent, and supplied the money required.
A little before this, he had gradually associated a number of persons, like himselt, of an eager and inquisitive turn of mind, and formed thein into a club, or society, to hold meetings for their mutual improvement in all kinds of useful knowledge, which was in high repute for many years after. Among many other useful regulations, they agreed to bring such books as they had into one place, to form a common library ; but this furnishing only a scanty supply, they resolved to contribute a small suin monthly towards the purehase of books for their use from London. In this way their stock began to increase rapidly; and the inhabitants of Philadelphia, being desirous of profiting by their library, proposed that the books should be lent out on paying a small sum for this indulgence. Thus in a few years the society became rich, and possessed more books than were perhaps to be found in all the other colonies; and the example began to be followed in other places.
About 1728 or 1729, Franklin set up a newspaper, the second in Philadelphia, which proved very profitable, and afforded him an opportunity of making himself known as a political writer, by his inserting several attempts of that kind in it.
He also set up a shop for the sale of books and articles of stationary, and in 17.30 he married a lady, now a widow, whom he had courted before he went to England, when she was a virgin. He afterwards began to have some leisure, both for reading books, and writing them, of which he gave many specimens from time to time. In 1732, he began to publish “ Poor Richard's Almanack,” which was continued for many years. always remarkable for the numerous and valuable concise maxims which it contained, for the economy of human life; all tending to industry and frugality; and which were comprized in a well-known address, entitled “ The Way to Wealth.” This has been translated into various languages, and inserted in almost every magazine and newspaper in Great Britain or America. It has also been printed on a large sheet, proper to be framed, and hung up in conspicuous places in all houses, as it very well deserves to be. Mr. Franklin became gradually more known for his political talents. In 1736, he was appointed clerk to the general assembly of Pennsylvania ; and was re-elected by succeeding assemblies for several years, till he was
chosen a representative for the city of Philadelphia; and in 1737 he was appointed post-master of that city. In 1738, he formed the first fire-company there, to extinguish and prevent fires and the burning of houses ; an example which was soon followed by other persons, and other places. And soon after, he suggested the plan of an association for insuring houses and ships from losses by fire, which was adopted; and the association continues to this day. In 1744, during a war between France and Great Britain, some French and Indians made inroads upon the frontier inhabitants of the province, who were unprovided for such an attack; the situation of the province was at this time truly alarming, being destitute of every means of defence. At this crisis Franklin stepped forth, and proposed to a meeting of the citizens of Philadelphia, a plan of a voluntary association for the defence of the province. This was approved of, and signed by 1200 persons immediately. Copies of it were circulated through the province; - and in a short time the number of signatures amounted to
10,000. Franklin was chosen colonel of the Philadelphia regiment; but he did not think proper to accept of the honour.
Pursuits of a different nature now occupied the greatest part of his attention for some years. Being always much addicted to the study of natural philosophy, and the discovery of the Leyden experiment in electricity having rendered that science an object of general curiosity, Mr. Franklin applied himself to it, and soon began to distinguish himself eminently in that way. He engaged in a course of electrical experiments with all the ardour and thirst for discovery which characterized the philosophers of that day. By these he was enabled to make a number of important discoveries, and to propose theories to account for various phenomena; which have been generally adopted, and which will probably endure for ages. His observations be communicated in a series of letters to his friend Mr. Peter Collinson; the first of which is dated March 28, 1747. In these he makes known the power of points in drawing and throwing off the electric matter, which had hitherto escaped the notice of electricians. He also made the discovery of a plus and minus, or of a positive and negative state of electricity; from whence, in a satisfactory manner be explained the phenomena of the Leyden phial, first observed by Cuneus or Muschen
broeck, which had much perplexed philosophers. He shewed that the bottle, when charged, contained no more electricity than before, but that as much was taken from one side as was thrown on the other ; and that, to discharge it, it was only necessary to make a communication between the two sides, by which the equilibrium might be restored, and that then no signs of electricity would remain. He afterwards demonstrated by experiments, that the electricity did not reside in the coating, as had been supposed, but in the pores of the glass itself. After a phial was charged, he removed the coating, and found that upon applying a new coating the shock might still be received. In 1749, he first suggested his idea of explaining the phenomena of thunder-gusts, and of the aurora borealis, upon electrical principles. He points out many particulars in which lightning and electricity agree; and he adducès many facts, and reasoning from facts, in support of his positions. In the same year he conceived the bold and grand idea of ascertaining the truth of his doctrine, by actually drawing down the forked lightning, by means of sharp-pointed iron rods raised into the region of the clouds; from whence he derived his method of securing buildings and ships from being damaged by lightning. It was not until the summer of 1752 that he was enabled to complete his grand discovery, the experiment of the electrical "kite, which being raised up into the clouds, brought thence the electricity or lightning down to the earth; and M. D’Alibard made the experiment about the same time in France, by following the track which Franklin had before pointed
The letters which he sent to Mr. Collinson, it is said, were refused a place among the papers of the royal society of London; and Mr. Collinson published them in a separate volume, under the title of “ New Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia, in America,” which were read with avidity, and soon translated into different languages. His theories were at first opposed by several philosophers, and by the members of the royal society of London; but in 1755, when he returned to that city, they voted him the gold medal which is annually given to the person who presents the best paper on some interesting subject. He was also admitied a member of the society, and had the degree of LL. D. conferred upon him by different universities ; but at this time, by reason of the war which broke out between Britain and
France, he returned to America, and interested himself in the public affairs of that country. Jodeed, he had done this long before ; for although philosophy was a principal object of Franklin's pursuit for several years, he did not confine bimself to it alone. In 1747 he became a member of the general assembly of Pennsylvania, as a burgess for the city of Philadelphia. Being a friend to the rights of man from his infancy, he soon distinguished himself as a steady opponent of the unjust schemes of the proprietaries. He was soon looked up to as the head of the opposition; and to him have been attributed many of the spirited replies of the assembly to the messages of the governors. His influence in the body was very great, not from any superior powers of eloquence; he spoke but seldom, and he never was known to make any thing like an elaborate harangue; but his speeches generally consisting of a single sentence, or of a well-told story, the moral was always obviously to the point, He never attempted the flowery fields of oratory. His manner was plain and mild. His style in speaking was, like that of his writings, simple, unadorned, and remarkably concise. With this plain manner, and his penetrating and solid judgment, he was able to confound the most eloquent and subtle of his adversaries, to confirm the opinions of his friends, and to make converts of the unprejudiced who had opposed him. With a single observation he has rendered of no avail a long and elegant discourse, and determined the fate of a question of importance.
In 1749 he proposed a plan of an academy to be erected in the city of Philadelphia, as a foundation for posterity to erect a seminary of learning, more extensive and suitable to future circumstances; and in the beginning of 1750, three of the schools were opened, namely, the Latin and Greek school, the mathematical, and the EngJish schools. This foundation soon after gave rise to another more extensive college, incorporated by charter May 27, 1755, which still subsists, and in a very flourishing condition. In 1752 he was instrumental in the establishment of the Pennsylvania hospital, for the cure and relief of indigent invalids, which has proved of the greatest use to that class of persons. Having conducted himself so well as post-master of Philadelphia, he was in 1753 appointed deputy post-master general for the whole British colonies.
The colonies being much exposed to depredations in