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it to thought the word hatter tautologous, because followed by the words makes hats, which showed he was a hatter. It was struck out. The next observed that the word makes might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats; if good and to their mind, they would buy, by whomsoever made. He struck it out. A third said he thought the words for ready money were useless, as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit: every one who purchased expected to pay. They were parted with, and the inscription now stood, John Thompson sells hats. «Sells hats,” says his next friend; why, nobody will expect you to give them away. What then is the use of that word ?» It was stricken out, and hats followed, the rather as there was one painted on the board. So his inscription was ultimately reduced to John Thompson, with the figure of a hat subjoined.) »
When the members were about to sign the document, Mr. Hancock is reported to have said, “We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together.” “Yes,” replied Franklin, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The Doric simplicity of his style; his incomparable facility of condensing a great principle into an apologue or an anecdote, many of which, as he applied them, have become the folk-lore of all nations; his habitual moderation of statement, his aversion to exaggeration, his inflexible logic, and his perfect truthfulness, — made him one of the most persuasive men of his time, and his writings a model which no one can study without profit. A judicious selection from Franklin's writings should constitute a part of the curriculum of every college and high school that aspires to cultivate in its pupils a pure style and correct literary taste.
There was one incident in Franklin's life, which, though more frequently referred to in terms of reproach than any other, will probably count for more in his favor in the Great Assize than any other of his whole life. While yet in his teens he became a father before he was a husband. He never did what men of the loftiest moral pretensions not unfrequently do,-shirk as far as possible any personal responsibility for this indiscretion. On the contrary, he took the fruit of it to his home; gave him the best education the schools of the country then afforded. When he went abroad, this son accompanied him, was presented as his son wherever he went, was presented in all the great houses in which he himself was received; he entered him at the Inns of Court, and in due time had him admitted to the English bar; made him his private secretary, and at an early age caused him to be appointed by the Crown, Governor of New Jersey. The father not only did everything to repair the wrong he had done his son, but at a time when he was at the zenith of his fame and official importance, publicly proclaimed it as one of the great errors of his life. The world has always abounded with bastards; but with the exception of crowned heads claiming to hold their sceptres by Divine right, and therefore beyond the reach of popular criticism or reproach, it would be difficult to name another parent of his generation of anything like corresponding eminence with Franklin, who had the courage and the magnanimity to expiate such a wrong to his offspring so fully and effectively.
Franklin was not a member of the visible Church, nor did he ever become the adherent of any sect. He was three years younger than Jonathan Edwards, and in his youth heard his share of the then prevailing theology of New England, of which Edwards was regarded, and perhaps justly, as the most eminent exponent. The extremes to which Edwards carried those doctrines at last so shocked the people of Massachusetts that he was rather ignominiously expelled from his pulpit at Northampton; and the people of Massachusetts, in very considerable proportions, gradually wandered over into the Unitarian communion. To Jonathan Edwards and the inflexible law of action and reaction, more than to Priestley or any one else of their generation, that sect owes to this day its numerical strength, its influence, and its dignity, in New England. With the creed of that sect Dr. Franklin had more in common than with any other, though he was much too wise a man to suppose that there was but one gate of admission to the Holy City. He believed in one God; that Jesus was the best man that ever lived, and his example the most profitable one ever given us to follow. He never succeeded in accepting the doctrine that Jehovah and Jesus were one person, or that miracles attributed to the latter in the Bible were ever worked. He thought the best service and sufficient worship of God was in doing all the good we can to his creatures. He therefore never occupied himself much with ecclesiastical ceremonies, sectarian differences, or theological subtleties. A reverend candidate for episcopal orders wrote to Franklin, complaining that the Archbishop of Canterbury had refused to ordain him unless he would take the oath of allegiance, which he was too patriotic a Yankee to do. Franklin, in reply, asked what necessity there was for his being connected with the Church of England; if it would not be as well were it the Church of Ireland. Perhaps were he to apply to the Bishop of Derry, who was a man of liberal sentiments, he might give him orders, as of that Church. Should both England and Ireland refuse, Franklin assumed that the Bishops of Sweden and Norway would refuse also, unless the candidates embraced Lutheranism. He then added :
«Next to becoming Presbyterians, the Episcopalian clergy of America, in my humble opinion, cannot do better than to follow the example of the first clergy of Scotland, soon after the conversion of that country to Christianity. When the King had built the cathedral of St. Andrew's, and requested the King of Northumberland to lend his bishops to ordain one for them, that their clergy might not as heretofore be obliged to go to Northumberland for orders, and their request was refused, they assembled in the cathedral, and the mitre, crosier, and robes of a bishop being laid upon the altar, they after earnest prayers for direction in their choice elected one of their own number; when the King said to him, "Arise, go to the altar, and receive your office at the hand of God. His brethren led him to the altar, robed him, put the crosier in his hand and the mitre on his head, and he became the first Bishop of Scotland.
«If the British islands were sunk in the sea (and the surface of this globe has suffered great changes), you would probably take some such method as this; and if they persist in denying your ordination, it is the same thing. A hundred years hence, when people are more enlightened, it will be wondered at that men in America, qualified by their learning and piety to pray for and instruct their neighbors, should not be permitted to do it till they had made a voyage of six thousand miles out and home, to ask leave of a cross old gentleman at Canterbury.”
Franklin, however, was in no sense an agnostic. What he could not understand he did not profess to understand or believe; neither was he guilty of the presumption of holding that what he could not understand, he might not have understood if he had been a wiser and better man. Though impatient of cant and hypocrisy, especially in the pulpit, he never spoke lightly of the Bible, or of the Church and its offices. When his daughter Sally was about to marry, he wrote to her:
«My dear child, the natural prudence and goodness of heart God has blest you with, make it less necessary for me to be particular in giving you advice. I shall therefore only say, that the more attentively dutiful and tender you are towards your good mamma, the more you will recommend yourself to me. But why should I mention me, when you have so much higher a promise in the Commandments, that such conduct will recommend you to the favor of God? You know I have many enemies, all indeed on the public account (for I cannot recollect that I have in a private capacity given just cause of offense to any one whatever): yet they are enemies, and very bitter ones; and you must expect their enmity will extend in some degree to you, so that your slightest indiscretions will be magnified into crimes, in order the more sensibly to wound and afflict me. It is therefore the more necessary for you to be extremely circumspect in all your behavior, that no advantage may be given to their malevolence.
«Go constantly to church, whoever preaches. The act of devotion in the Common Prayer Book is your principal business there, and if properly attended to will do more towards amending the heart than sermons generally can do. For they were composed by men of much greater piety and wisdom than our common composers of sermons can pretend to be; and therefore I wish you would never miss the prayer days: yet I do not mean you should
despise sermons, even of the preachers you dislike, for the discourse is often much better than the man, as sweet and clear waters come through very dirty earth. I am the more particular on this head, as you seemed to express a little before I came away some inclination to leave our church, which I would not have you do.”
I cannot more fitly close this imperfect sketch of America's most illustrious citizen, than by quoting from a touching and most affectionate letter from Mrs. Hewson (Margaret Stevenson), - one of Franklin's worthiest, most faithful, and most valued friends, — addressed to one of Franklin's oldest friends in England.
“We have lost that valued, venerable, kind friend whose knowledge enlightened our minds and whose philanthropy warmed our hearts. But we have the consolation to think that if a life well spent in acts of universal benevolence to mankind, a grateful acknowledgment of Divine favor, a patient submission under severe chastisement, and an humble trust in Almighty mercy, can insure the happiness of a future state, our present loss is his gain. I was the faithful witness of the closing scene, which he sustained with that calm fortitude which characterized him through life. No repining, no peevish expression ever escaped him during a confinement of two years, in which, I believe, if every moment of ease could be added together, would not amount to two whole months. When the pain was not too violent to be amused, he employed himself with his books, his pen, or in conversation with his friends; and upon every occasion displayed the clearness of his intellect and the cheerfulness of his temper. Even when the intervals from pain were so short that his words were frequently interrupted, I have known him to hold a discourse in a sublime strain of piety. I say this to you because I know it will give you pleasure.
“I never shall forget one day that I passed with our friend last summer. I found him in bed in great agony; but when that agony abated a little I asked if I should read to him. He said yes; and the first book I met with was Johnson's (Lives of the Poets. I read the Life of Watts, who was a favorite author with Dr. Franklin; and instead of lulling him to sleep, it roused him to a display of the powers of his memory and his reason. He repeated several of Watts's (Lyric Poems, and descanted upon their sublimity in a strain worthy of them and of their pious author. It is natural for us to wish that an attention to some ceremonies had accompanied that religion of the heart which I am convinced Dr. Franklin always possessed; but let us who feel the benefit of them continue to practice them, without thinking lightly of that piety which could support pain without a murmur, and meet death without terror.”
Franklin made a somewhat more definite statement of his views on the subject of religion, in reply to an inquiry from President Styles of Yale College, who expressed a desire to know his opinion of Jesus of Nazareth. Franklin's reply was written the last year of his life, and in the eighty-fourth of his age:
«You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is like to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.
«I shall only add, respecting myself, that, having experienced the goodness of that Being in conducting me prosperously through a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness. My sentiments on this head you will see in the copy of an old letter inclosed, which I wrote in answer to one from an old religionist whom I had relieved in a paralytic case by electricity, and who, being afraid I should grow proud upon it, sent me his serious though rather impertinent caution.”
OF FRANKLIN'S FAMILY AND EARLY LIFE From the "Autobiography,' in Bigelow's Edition of Franklin's Works
Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with
three children into New England about 1682. The conven
ticles having been forbidden by law and frequently disturbed, induced some considerable men of his acquaintance to remove to that country, and he was prevailed with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy their mode of religion with freedom. By the same wife he had four children more