Four Great Americans  by James Baldwin

The Story of Benjamin Franklin

Part 3 of 4

IX.—The Return to Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin felt much disappointed when his father refused to help send him to England. But he was not discouraged.

In a few weeks he was ready to return to Philadelphia. This time he did not have to run away from home.

His father blessed him, and his mother gave him many small gifts as tokens of her love.

"Be diligent," said his father, "attend well to your business, and save your money carefully, and, perhaps, by the time you are twenty-one years old, you will be able to set up for yourself without the governor's help."

All the family, except James the printer, bade him a kind good-bye, as he went on board the little ship that was to take him as far as New York.

There was another surprise for him when he reached New York.

The governor of New York had heard that there was a young man from Boston on board the ship, and that he had a great many books.

There were no large libraries in New York at that time. There were no bookstores, and but few people who cared for books.

So the governor sent for Franklin to come and see him. He showed him his own library, and they had a long talk about books and authors.

This was the second governor that had taken notice of Benjamin. For a poor boy, like him, it was a great honor, and very pleasing.

When he arrived in Philadelphia he gave to Governor Keith the letter which his father had written.

The governor was not very well pleased. He said:

"Your father is too careful. There is a great difference in persons. Young men can sometimes be trusted with great undertakings as well as if they were older."

He then said that he would set Franklin up in business without his father's help.

"Give me a list of everything needed in a first-class printing-office. I will see that you are properly fitted out."

Franklin was delighted. He thought that Governor Keith was one of the best men in the world.

In a few days he laid before the governor a list of the things needed in a little printing-office.

The cost of the outfit would be about five hundred dollars.

The governor was pleased with the list. There were no type-foundries in America at that time. There was no place where printing-presses were made. Everything had to be bought in England.

The governor said, "Don't you think it would be better if you could go to England and choose the types for yourself, and see that everything is just as you would like to have it?"

"Yes, sir," said Franklin, "I think that would be a great advantage."

"Well, then," said the governor, "get yourself ready to go on the next regular ship to London. It shall be at my expense."

At that time there was only one ship that made regular trips from Philadelphia to England, and it sailed but once each year.

The name of this ship was the Annis. It would not be ready to sail again for several months.

And so young Franklin, while he was getting ready for the voyage, kept on working in Mr. Keimer's little printing-office.

He laid up money enough to pay for his passage. He did not want to be dependent upon Governor Keith for everything; and it was well that he did not.

X.—The First Visit to England

At last the Annis  was ready to sail.

Governor Keith had promised to give to young Franklin letters of introduction to some of his friends in England.

He had also promised to give him money to buy his presses and type.

But when Franklin called at the governor's house to bid him good-bye, and to get the letters, the governor was too busy to see him. He said that he would send the letters and the money to him on shipboard.

The ship sailed.

But no letters, nor any word from Governor Keith, had been sent to Franklin.

When he at last arrived in London he found himself without money and without friends.

Governor Keith had given him nothing but promises. He would never give him anything more. He was a man whose word was not to be depended upon.

Franklin was then just eighteen years old. He must now depend wholly upon himself. He must make his own way in the world, without aid from anyone.

He went out at once to look for work. He found employment in a printing-office, and there he stayed for nearly a year.

Franklin made many acquaintances with literary people while he was in London.

He proved himself to be a young man of talent and ingenuity. He was never idle.

His companions in the printing-office were beer-drinkers and sots. He often told them how foolish they were to spend their money and ruin themselves for drink.

He drank nothing but water. He was strong and active. He could carry more, and do more work, than any of them.

He persuaded many of them to leave off drinking, and to lead better lives.

Franklin was also a fine swimmer. There was no one in London who could swim as well. He wrote two essays on swimming, and made some plans for opening a swimming school.

When he had been in London about a year, he met a Mr. Denham, a merchant of Philadelphia, and a strong friendship sprang up between them.

Mr. Denham at last persuaded Franklin to return to Philadelphia, and be a clerk in his dry-goods store.

And so, on the 23rd of the next July, he set sail for home. The ship was nearly three months in making the voyage, and it was not until October that he again set foot in Philadelphia.

XI.—A Leading Man in Philadelphia

When Franklin was twenty-four years old he was married to Miss Deborah Read, the young lady who had laughed at him when he was walking the street with his three rolls.

They lived together very happily for a great many years.

Some time before this marriage, Franklin's friend and employer, Mr. Denham, had died.

The dry-goods store, of which he was the owner, had been sold, and Franklin's occupation as a salesman, or clerk, was gone. But the young man had shown himself to be a person of great industry and ability. He had the confidence of everybody that knew him.

A friend of his, who had money, offered to take him as a partner in the newspaper business. And so he again became a printer, and the editor of a paper called the Pennsylvania Gazette.

It was not long until Franklin was recognized as one of the leading men in Philadelphia. His name was known, not only in Pennsylvania, but in all the colonies.

He was all the time thinking of plans for making the people about him wiser and better and happier.

He established a subscription and circulating library, the first in America. This library was the beginning of the present Philadelphia Public Library.

He wrote papers on education. He founded the University of Pennsylvania. He organized the American Philosophical Society.

He established the first fire company in Philadelphia, which was also the first in America.

He invented a copper-plate press, and printed the first paper money of New Jersey.

He also invented the iron fireplace, which is called the Franklin stove, and is still used where wood is plentiful and cheap.

After an absence of ten years, he paid a visit to his old home in Boston. Everybody was glad to see him now,—even his brother James, the printer.

When he returned to Philadelphia, he was elected clerk of the colonial assembly.

Not long after that, he was chosen to be post-master of the city. But his duties in this capacity did not require very much labor in those times.

He did not handle as much mail in a whole year as passes now through the Philadelphia post-office in a single hour.

XII.—Franklin's Rules of Life

Here are some of the rules of life which Franklin made for himself when he was a very young man:

1. To live very frugally till he had paid all that he owed.

2. To speak the truth at all times; to be sincere in word and action.

3. To apply himself earnestly to whatever business he took in hand; and to shun all foolish projects for becoming suddenly rich. "For industry and patience," he said, "are the surest means of plenty."

4. To speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but to speak all the good he knew of everybody.

When he was twenty-six years old, he published the first number of an almanac called Poor Richard's Almanac.

This almanac was full of wise and witty sayings, and everybody soon began to talk about it.

Every year, for twenty-five years, a new number of Poor Richard's Almanac  was printed. It was sold in all parts of the country. People who had no other books would buy and read Poor Richard's Almanac. The library of many a farmer consisted of only the family Bible with one or more numbers of this famous almanac.

Here are a few of Poor Richard's sayings:

"A word to the wise is enough."

"God helps them that help themselves."

"Early to bed and early to rise, Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

"There are no gains without pains."

"Plow deep while sluggards sleep, And you shall have corn to sell and to keep."

"One to-day is worth two to-morrows."

"Little strokes fell great oaks."

"Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee."

"The sleeping fox catches no poultry."

"Diligence is the mother of good luck."

"Constant dropping wears away stones."

"A small leak will sink a great ship."

"Who dainties love shall beggars prove."

"Creditors have better memories than debtors."

"Many a little makes a mickle."

"Fools make feasts and wise men eat them."

"Many have been ruined by buying good pennyworths."

"Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt."

"For age and want save while you may; No morning sun lasts the whole day."

It is pleasant to know that Franklin observed the rules of life which he made. And his wife, Deborah, was as busy and as frugal as himself.

They kept no idle servants. Their furniture was of the cheapest sort. Their food was plain and simple.

Franklin's breakfast, for many years, was only bread and milk; and he ate it out of a two-penny earthen bowl with a pewter spoon.

But at last, when he was called one morning to breakfast, he found his milk in a china bowl; and by the side of the bowl there was a silver spoon.

His wife had bought them for him as a surprise. She said that she thought her husband deserved a silver spoon and china bowl as well as any of his neighbors.