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met at an inn called The Horns. But, in spite of their influence, Franklin began to doubt the principles he had laid down in his pamphlet. He had gone so far in negation that a reaction was started in his mind. He tore up most of the hundred copies of “Liberty and Necessity,” believing it to be of an evil tendency. Like most of his writings, however, it possessed a vital force of its own, and some one printed a second edition of it.
His morals at this time were, according to his own account, fairly good. He asserts that he was neither dishonest nor unjust, and we can readily believe him, for these were not faults of his character. In his Autobiography he says that he passed through this dangerous period of his life "without any willful gross immorality or injustice that might have been expected from my want of religion." In the first draft of the Autobiography he added, "some foolish intrigues with low women excepted, which from the expense were rather more prejudicial to me than to them.” But in the revision these words were crossed out.*
On the voyage from London to Philadelphia he kept a journal, and in it entered a plan which he had formed for regulating his future conduct, no doubt after much reflection while at sea. Towards the close of his life he said of it, “It is the more remarkable as being formed when I was so young and yet being pretty faithfully adhered to quite thro' to old age." This plan was not found in the
Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. i. p. 140.
journal, but a paper which is supposed to contain it was discovered and printed by Parton in his “Life of Franklin." It recommends extreme frugality until he can pay his debts, truth-telling, sincerity, devotion to business, avoidance of all projects for becoming suddenly rich, with a resolve to speak ill of no man, but rather to excuse faults. Revealed religion had, he says, no weight with him ; but he had become convinced that “truth, sincerity, and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life.”
Although revealed religion seemed of no importance to him, he had begun to think that, “though certain actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them, yet probably those actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us or commanded because they were beneficial to us in their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered.”
It was in this way that he avoided and confuted his own argument in the pamphlet “Liberty and Necessity." He had maintained in it that God must necessarily have created both good and evil. And as he had created evil, it could not be considered as something contrary to his will, and therefore forbidden and wrong in the sense in which it is usually described. If it was contrary to his will it could not exist, for it was impossible to conceive of an omnipotent being allowing anything to exist contrary to his will, and least of all anything which was evil as well as contrary to his will. What we call evil,
therefore, must be no worse than good, because both are created by an all-wise, omnipotent being.
This argument has puzzled many serious and earnest minds in all ages, and Franklin could never entirely give it up. But he avoided it by saying that “probably' certain actions "might be forbidden," because, “all the circumstances of things considered," they were bad for us, or they might be commanded because they were beneficial to us. In other words, God created evil as well as good ; but for some reason which we do not understand he has forbidden us to do evil and has commanded us to do good. Or, he has so arranged things that what we call evil is injurious to us and what we call good is beneficial to us.
This was his eminently practical way of solving the great problem of the existence of evil. It will be said, of course, that it was simply exchanging one mystery for another, and that one was as incomprehensible as the other. To which he would probably have replied that his mystery was the pleasanter one, and, being less of an empty, dry negation and giving less encouragement to vice, was more comforting to live under, “all the circumstances of things considered."
He says that he felt himself the more confirmed in this course because his old friends Collins and Ralph, whom he had perverted to his first way of thinking, went wrong, and injured him greatly without the least compunction. He also recollected the contemptible conduct of Governor Keith towards him, and Keith was another free-thinker.
conduct while under the influence of arguments like those in “Liberty and Necessity" had been by no means above reproach. He had wronged Miss Read, whose affections he had won, and he had embezzled Mr. Vernon's money. So he began to suspect, he tells us, that his early doctrine, “tho'it might be true, was not very useful."
When back again in Philadelphia and beginning to prosper a little, he set himself more seriously to the task of working out some form of religion that would suit him. He must needs go to the bottom of the subject; and in this, as in other matters, nothing satisfied him unless he had made it himself. In the year 1728, when he was twenty-two years old, he framed a creed, a most curious compound, which can be given no other name than Franklin's creed.
Having rejected his former negative belief as not sufficiently practical for his purposes, and having once started creed-building, he was led on into all sorts of ideas, which it must be confessed were no better than those of older creed-makers, and as difficult to believe as anything in revealed religion. But he would have none but his own, and its preparation was, of course, part of that mental training which, consciously or unconsciously, was going on all the time.
He began by saying that he believed in one Supreme Being, the author and father of the gods, for in his system there were beings superior to man, though inferior to God. These gods, he thought, were probably immortal, or possibly were changed
and others put in their places. Each of them had a glorious sun, attended by a beautiful and admirable system of planets. God the Infinite Father, required no praise or worship from man, being infinitely above it; but as there was a natural principle in man which inclined him to devotion, it seemed right that he should worship something.
He went on to say that God had in him some of the human passions, and was “not above caring for us, being pleased with our praise and offended when we slight him or neglect his glory;" which was a direct contradiction of what he had previously said about the Creator being infinitely above praise or worship. “As I should be happy," says this bumptious youth of twenty-two, “to have so wise, good, and powerful a Being my friend, let me consider in what manner I shall make myself most acceptable to him.”
This good and powerful Being would, he thought, be delighted to see him virtuous, because virtue makes men happy, and the great Being would be pleased to see him happy. So he constructed a sort of liturgy, prefacing it with the suggestion that he ought to begin it with “a countenance that expresses a filial respect, mixed with a kind of smiling that signifies inward joy and satisfaction and admiration,” -a piece of formalism which was rather worse than anything that has been invented by the ecclesiastics he so much despised. At one point in the liturgy he was to sing Milton's hymn to the Creator; at another point "to read part of some such book as Ray's Wisdom of God in the Creation, or