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intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries. This statement seems to be justified ; for within a few years libraries sprang up in New England and the South, and they may have been suggested by the Philadelphia Library which Franklin founded.
I have already shown how Franklin established the academy which soon became the College of Philadelphia, but this was some twenty years after he founded the library. Almost immediately after the academy was started Dr. Thomas Bond sought his assistance in establishing a hospital. Pennsylvania was receiving at that time great numbers of German immigrants, who arrived in crowded ships after a voyage of months, in a terrible state of dirt and disease. There was no proper place provided for them, and they were a source of danger to the rest of the people. A hospital was needed, and Dr. Bond, at first meeting with but little success, finally accomplished his object with the assistance of Franklin, who obtained for him a grant of two thousand pounds from the Assembly, and helped to stir up subscribers.
This was the first hospital in America, and it still fulfils its mission in the beautiful old colonial buildings which were originally erected for it. Additional buildings have been since added, fortunately, in the same style of architecture. For the corner-stone Franklin wrote an inscription matchless for its originality and appropriateness :
“In the year of CHRIST MDCCLV George the Second happily reigning (for he sought the happiness of his people), Philadelphia flourishing (for its inhabitants were public spirited), this building,
by the bounty of the government, and of many private persons, was piously founded for the relief of the sick and miserable. May the GOD OF MERCIES bless the undertaking."
In the same spirit Franklin secured by a little agitation the paying of the street round the market, and afterwards started subscriptions to keep this pavement clean.
At that time the streets of Philadelphia, like those of most of the colonial towns, were merely earth roads, and it was not until some years after Franklin's first efforts at the market that there was any general paving done. He also secured a well-regulated night watch for the city in place of the disorderly, drunken heelers of the constables, who had long made a farce of the duty ; and he established a volunteer fire company which was the foundation of the system that prevailed in Philadelphia until the paid department was introduced after the civil war.
The American Philosophical Society, which was also originated by him, might seem to be more entitled to mention in the chapter on science. But it was really a benevolent enterprise, intended to propagate useful knowledge, to encourage agriculture, trade, and the mechanic arts, and to multiply the conveniences and pleasures of life. He first suggested it in 1743, in which year he prepared a plan for a society for promoting useful knowledge, and one appears to have been organized which led a languishing existence until 1769, when it was joined by another organization, called “The American Society held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge," and from this union resulted the
American Philosophical Society, which still exists. Franklin was for a long time its president, and was succeeded by Rittenhouse. It was the first society in America devoted to science. Thomas Jefferson and other prominent persons throughout the colonies were members of it, and during the colonial period and long afterwards it held a very important position.
Franklin was by nature a public man; but the beginning of his life as an office holder may be said to have dated from his appointment as clerk of the Assembly. This took place in 1736, when he had been in business for himself for some years, and his. newspaper and “Poor Richard" were well under way. It was a tiresome task to sit for hours listening to buncombe speeches, and drawing magic squares and circles to while away the time. But he valued the appointment because it gave him influence with the members and a hold on the public printing.
The second year his election to the office was opposed; an influential member wanted the place for a friend, and Franklin had a chance to show a philosopher's skill in practical politics.
“ Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return'd it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met, in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says • He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.'” (Bigelow's Franklin from his own Writings, vol. i. p. 260.)
Some people have professed to be very much shocked at this disingenuous trick, as they call it, although perhaps capable of far more discreditable ones themselves. It would be well if no worse could be said of modern practical politics.
Franklin held his clerkship nearly fifteen years. During this period he was also postmaster of Philadelphia, and these two offices, with the benevolent enterprises of the library, the hospital, the Philosophical Society, and the academy and college, made him very much of a public man in the best sense of the word long before he was engaged in regular politics.
In the year 1747 he performed an important public service by organizing the militia. War had been declared by England against both France and Spain, and the colonies were called upon to help the mother country. Great difficulty was experienced in recruiting troops in Quaker Pennsylvania, although the Quakers would indirectly consent to it when given a reasonable excuse. They would vote money for the king's use, and the king's officials might take the responsibility of using it for war; they would supply provisions to the army, for that was charity; and on one occasion they voted four thousand pounds for the purchase of beef, pork, flour, wheat, or other grain, and as powder was grain, the money was used in supplying it.
But the actual recruiting of troops was more difficult, and it was to further this object that Franklin exerted himself. He wrote one of his clever pamphlets showing the danger of a French invasion, and
supplied biblical texts in favor of defensive war. Then calling a mass-meeting in the large building afterwards used for the college, he urged the people to form an association for defence. Papers were distributed among them, and in a few minutes he had twelve hundred signatures. These citizen soldiers were called
Associators,' -a name used down to the time of the Revolution to describe the Pennsylvania militia. In a few days he had enrolled ten thousand volunteers, which shows how large the combatant portion of the population was in spite of Quaker doctrine.
In 1748 he retired from active business with the purpose of devoting himself to science. It was the custom at that time to give retired men of business the more important public offices; and in 1752, about the time of his discovery of the nature of lightning, he was elected to the Assembly as one of the members to represent Philadelphia. In the same year he was also elected a justice of the peace and a member of the City Councils.
At this time France and England were temporarily at peace. The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 had resulted in a sort of cessation of hostilities, which France was using to push more actively her advantages on the Ohio River and in the Mississippi Valley. She intended to get behind all the colonies and occupy the continent to the Pacific Ocean. The efforts of Great Britain to check these designs, including the expeditions of the youthful Washington to the Ohio, need not be given here.* England
* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, p. 147.