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C to D. Fig. 23 represents a new way of planking ships to secure greater strength, and Figs. 26 and 27 are soup-dishes which will not spill in a heavy
But this delightful letter is published in all of the editions of his works, and should be read in order to render his ingenious contrivances intelligible.
Among the few of Franklin's writings on scientific subjects which are not in the form of letters is an essay, entitled “Peopling of Countries," supposed to have been written in 1751. It is in part intended to show that Great Britain was not injured by the immigration to America ; the gap was soon filled up; and the colonies, by consuming British manufactures, increased the resources of the mother country. The essay is full of reflections on political economy, which had not then become a science, and the twenty-second section contains the statement that there is no bound to the productiveness of plants and animals other than that occasioned by their crowding and interfering with one another's means of subsistence. This statement supplied Malthus with the foundation for his famous theory that the population of the earth increased in a geometrical ratio, while the means of subsistence increased only in an arithmetical ratio, and some of those who opposed this theory devoted themselves to showing error in Franklin's twenty-second section rather than to disputing the conclusions of Malthus, which they believed would fall if Franklin could be shown to be in the wrong.
He investigated the new field of political economy with the same thoroughness as the other depart
ments of science, and wrote on national wealth, the price of corn, free trade, the effects of luxury, idleness, and industry, the slave-trade, and peace and
The humor and imagination in one of his letters to Dr. Priestley on war justify the quoting of a
part of it:
“ A young angel of distinction being sent down to this world on some business, for the first time, had an old courier-spirit assigned him as a guide. They arrived over the seas of Martinico, in the middle of the long day of obstinate fight between the fleets of Rodney and De Grasse. When through the clouds of smoke he saw the fire of the guns, the decks covered with mangled limbs and bodies dea and dying, or blown into the air, and the quantity of pain, misery, and destruction the crews yet alive were thus with so much eagerness dealing round to one another, he turned angrily to his guide and said, “You blundering blockhead, you are ignorant of your business; you undertook to conduct me to the earth and you have brought me into hell!' “No, sir,' says the guide, • I have made no mistake; this is really the earth, and these are men. Devils never treat one another in this cruel manner; they have more sense, and more of what men (vainly) call humanity.'” (Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. vii. p. 465.)
WHILE Franklin kept his little stationery shop and printing-office, sent out his almanacs every year, read and studied, experimented in science, and hoped for an assured income which would give larger leisure for study and experiment, he was all the time drifting more and more into public life. In a certain sense he had been accustomed to dealing with living public questions from boyhood. When an apprentice in his teens, he had written articles for his brother's newspaper attacking the established religious and political system of Massachusetts, and during his brother's imprisonment the newspaper had been published in the apprentice's name. In Pennsylvania his own newspaper, the Gazette, which he established when he was but twenty-three years old, made him something of a public man; and his pamphlet in favor of paper money, which appeared at about the same period, showed how strongly his mind inclined towards the large questions of government.
When he reached manhood he also developed a strong inclination to assist in public improvements, in the encouragement of thrift and comfort, and in the relief of suffering, subjects which are now included under the heads of philanthropy and reform.
He had in full measure the social and public spirit of the Anglo-Saxon, the spirit which instinctively builds up the community while at the same time it is deeply devoted to its own concerns. The only one of his ancestors that had risen above humble conditions was of this sort, and had been a leader in the public affairs of a village.
His natural disposition towards benevolent enterprises was much stimulated, he tells us, by a book called “Essays to do Good," by the eminent Massachusetts divine, Cotton Mather, of witchcraft fame. He also read about the same time De Foe's “ Essay upon Projects," a volume recommending asylums for the insane, technical schools, mutual benefit societies, improved roads, better banking, bankrupt laws, and other things which have now become the commonplace characteristics of our age.
His club, the Junto, was the first important fruit of this benevolent disposition.
At first its members kept all their books at its rooms for the common benefit; but some of the books having been injured, all were taken back by the owners, and this loss suggested to Franklin the idea of a circulating library supported by subscriptions. He drew up a plan and went about soliciting money in 1731, but it took him more than a year to collect forty-five pounds. James Logan, the secretary of the province, gave advice as to what books to buy, and the money was sent to London to be expended by Mr. Peter Collinson, to whom Franklin's famous letters on electricity were afterwards written. Mr. Collinson was the literary and philosophic
agent of Pennsylvania in those days. To him John Bartram, the first American botanist, sent the plants that he collected in the New World, and Mr. Collinson obtained for him the money with which to pursue his studies.
Collinson encouraged the new library in every way. For thirty years he made for it the annual purchase of books, always adding one or two volumes as a present, and it will be remembered that it was through him that Franklin obtained the electrical tube which started him on his remarkable discoveries.
The library began its existence at the Junto's rooms and grew steadily. Influential people gradually became interested in it and added their gifts. For half a century it occupied rooms in various buildings, -at one time in the State-House, and during the Revolution in Carpenters' Hall,—until in 1790, the year of Franklin's death, it erected a pretty building on Fifth Street, opposite Independence square. During the period from 1731 to 1790 similar libraries were established in the town, which it absorbed one by one: in 1769 the Union Library, in 1771 the Association Library Company and Amicable Library Company, and, finally, in 1790 the Loganian Library, which James Logan had established by his will. Before the Revolution the number of books increased but slowly, and in 1785 was only 5487. They now number 190,000.
Franklin says that it was the mother of subscription libraries in North America, and that in a few years the colonists became more of a reading people, and the common tradesmen and farmers were as