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Franklin's remarkable scheme of morals and self-discipline..--His journal of virtuous and vicious conduct.-Partial success, frequent failures, recorded.
His scepticism, and religious notions.-The Junto.--Poor Richard's Alma. nack. His decided success in business.-A celebrated preacher detected as a plagiarist.-A more celebrated one, Mr Whitfield, at Philadelphia. Franklin's acquaintance and correspondence with him.-Philosophical inventions and discoveries.- Pennsylvanian tire-places.
We pause at this period to review his remarkable scheme of self-government, and that plan for establishing his moral habits, for which he has been much applauded. On imbibing the scepticism which Collins and Shaftesbury taught him very early in life, he plainly saw, that if the influence of revealed religion was withdrawn, some severe system of personal discipline must be substituted for it: but he declares, in his old age, that he never was without some religious principles ; that he never for instance doubted the being of a God, or that he governed by his providence that world which he made in wisdom; that he always believed the soul of man to be immortal, and would be, here or hereafter, punished or rewarded.
In 1728 he composed a short liturgy or form of prayer for his private use, of which the fragment preserved in his family contains many excellent moral sentiments. He adores the Heavenly Majesty for all the mercies of nature, the station of man in the creation, heat and cold, rain and sunshine, and, for delighting in the happiness of his creatures. “Thou art my friend, my father, and my benefactor," he says, “ praised be thy name, O God, for ever!” In a short service, of which these sentiments form the introduction, he there purposes to read and meditate on extracts from Ray's Wisdom of God, Blackmore on the Creation, or Fenelon's demonstration of the being of a God, or else to spend some time in serious silence, contemplating these themes.
Then to sing Milton's Hymn to the Creator, afterwards to read some moral discourses, or something exciting to moral virtue. · Then to petition “ Supreme Goodness" for assist. ance in eschewing vice and persevering in virtue.
Concluding with thanks for peace and liberty, food and raiment, for the common benefits of life, for friends and their prosperity, for the fewness of his enemies, &c.
To insure the habit of attention to these rules of conduct, he considered it would be best, while aiming at the whole, to devote a week's particular attention to each of the virtues in succession, and determined faithfully to mark in a book, with a little black spot, each day's transgression of that virtue. Thus, in a quarter of a year, he proposed to try his strength upon the whole ; proceeding, he says, like a man who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and strength, but works on one of the beds first, and then proceeds to a second.
His idea of order requiring that every part of his business should have its appointed time, he thus divided the twenty-four hours of an ordinary day:
Rise at five. Ask the question, What good shall I do this day ? Until seven-wash, address Powerful Goodness, contrive day's business, take the resolution of the day, prosecute the present study, and breakfast. Eight to eleven-work. Twelve to one read or look over accounts, and dine. Two to five work. Six to nine-ask, What good have I done to day? put things in their places ; supper ; music; diversion or conversation ; examination of the day. Ten to four-sleep.
Our author honestly confesses the abundance of his faults upon this scheme. After a while, he went through one course only in a year, then one in several years, till at length the multiplicity of his affairs, as
he says, voyages abroad, &c. caused him to neglect it altogether. In his old age however he records, that while, with respect to order, he was from the first almost incorrigible, to the fair portion of the other virtues which he attained by this method he owed the whole of his success in public and private life.
He once proposed to have enlarged the scheme with a book containing comments on each precept, to be called the “ Art of Virtue,” but never completed the design. He tells us however, that his leading moral doctrine would have been, that vice is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but forbidden because it is hurtful. His basis of morality was therefore selfinterest. The great question is, whether he had eyes and heart to view that interest in a sufficiently eleyated point of view.
The Junto agreed, about this time, to unite their separate stock of books, and thus to form a library, to which the members should have com mon access, the place of their meeting (or hiredroom ) being the repository. By this means, it was thought, they would be able more readily to refer to authorities during their friendly debates, and every member would have the advantage of perusing the books of all the rest. But the scheme did not work well: each thought his books worthy of more care than they met with ; and after a year's trial the plan was relinquished. It suggested however to Franklin the idea of a public library. He proposed to erect fifty subscribers of 40s. into a company, who were also to pay 10s. a year afterwards for fifty years, the proposed period of its duration. By the help of the Junto, the fifty shares were quickly taken up: the scheme became popular; and the company afterwards increasing to one hundred shareholders, they obtained a charter. This institution, we are told, was the parent of all those numerous subscription libraries which now prevail in North America, and which Franklin, with an excusable vanity,
describes as having materially improved the conversation of the Americans, diffused universal knowledge amongst the farmers and tradesmen, and contributed, in no small degree, to that assertion of the civil rights of the colonies which resulted in their final independence.
At this time there was not a good bookseller's shop in any of the American colonies south of Boston; there were printers and stationers in New York and Philadelphia, but they sold only paper, ballads, almanacks, &c. : people disposed to read used to be under the necessity of sending for their books from England. The new library was open one day in the week, for the purpose of lending books to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if they were not duly returned. And Franklin observes, in after-life, that the objections he met with in soliciting the subscriptions, made him feel the impropriety of presenting himself as the proposer of any useful project that might be supposed to raise his reputation above his neighbour. "I therefore,” says he,“ put myself as much as I could out of sight, and stated it as a scheme of a number of friends who had requested me to go about and propose it to such as they thought lovers of reading. In this way my affairs went on more smoothly, and I ever after practised it on such occasions, and from my frequent success can heartily recommend it. The present little sacrifice of vanity will afterwards be amply repaid. If it remains awhile uncertain to whom the merit belongs, some one more vain than yourself would be encouraged to claim it, and then even envy will be disposed to do you justice, by plucking those assumed feathers, and restoring them to their right owner.” Franklin's personal advantages from this library were not small; he imported the books, and freely used them for private study; thus at once accelerating his fortune and his mental improvement, and repairing the loss of that learned education which was once intended for him. His circumstances.
from the period of which we are writing, became daily easier ; and reflecting often on what his father used to impress upon him in youth-“Seest thou a man diligent in his calling; he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men,”-he lived in his advanced age to realize this proverb in a remarkable manner. "I did not think," says he, " that I should ever literally stand before kings, which however has since happened ; for I have stood before five, and even had the honour of sitting down with one, the king of Denmark, to dinner.”
Franklin describes his wife as equally frugal and diligent with himself. She assisted him in his business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending the shop, and making small purchases for him in the way of trade. He kept no idle servants, his table was plain and simple, and his furniture homely. His breakfast, for instance, was bread and milk; and he ate it out of a twopenny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon, indulging himself with no tea. But one morning our philosopher discovered a china bowl with a silver spoon, upon his breakfast table, which cost twenty-three shillings. These were bought for him, without his knowledge, by Mrs Franklin, who had only the sound apology to make, that she thought her husband deserved a silver spoon and china bowl as well as any of his neighbours! This, he says, was the first appearance of plate and china in his house. · In 1732 he published his Almanack, which was continued about twenty-five years under the name of * Richard Sanders,”' and commonly called Poor Richard's Almanack. The work was replete with useful information, and particularly suited to the thin and rising population of the colonies. It soon came into general demand, and Franklin vended annually ten thousand copies. In his own precise and clear way, he filled all the spaces that occurred between the remarkable days in the Calendar with proverbial sentences, inculcating particularly hom nesty and frugality, adapted to the circumstances of