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certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that might give the appearance of being obstinately attached to my opie nion. I rather said I imagine, I suppose, or it appears to me, that such a thing is so or so, for such and such reasons ; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit has, I think been of considerable advantage to me, when I have had occasion to impress my opinion on the minds of others and persuade them to the adoption of the measures I have suggested. And since the chief ends of conversation are, to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I could wish that intelligent and well-meaning men would not themselves diminish the powers they possess of being useful, by a positive and presumptuous manner of expressing themselves, which scarcely ever fails to disgust the hearer, and is only calculated to excite opposition and defeat every purpose for which the faculty of speech has been bestowed upon man.
In short, if you wish to inform, a positive and dogmatical manner of advancing your opinion may provoke contradiction, and preve it your being heard with attention. On the other hand, if with a desire of being informed, and of benefiting by the knowledge of others, you express yourselves as being strongly attached to your own opinions, modest and sensible men, who do not love disputation, will leave you in tranquil possession of your errors. By following such a method, you can rarely hope to please your auditors, conciliate their good-will, or work conviction on those whom you may be desirous of gaining over to your views. Pope judiciously observes,
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And in the same poem he afterwards advises us,
To speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence.
He might have added to these lines, one that he has coupled elsewhere, in my opinion, with less propriety. It is thus :
For want of decency is want of sense.
If you ask why I say with less propriety, I must give you the two lines together:
Immodest words admit of no defence,
Now want of sense, when a man has the misfortune to be so circumstanced, is it not a kind of excuse for want of modesty ? And would not the verses have been more accurate, if they had been constructed thus:
Immodest words admit but this defence,
But I leave the decision of this to better judges than myself.
In 1720, or 1721, my brother began to print a new public paper. It was the second that made its appearance in America, and was entitled the New England Courant. The only one that existed before was the Boston News Letter. Some of his friends, I remember, would have dissuaded him from this undertaking, as a thing that was not likely to succeed; a single news. paper being, in their opinion sufficient for all Ameri
At present, however, in 1777, there is no less than twenty-five. But he carried his project into execution, and I was employed in distributing the copies to his customers, after having assisted in composing and working them off.
Among his friends he had a number of literary characters, who, as an amusement, wrote short essays for the paper, which gave it reputation and increased its sale. Those gentlemen came frequently to our house. I heard the conversation that passed, and the accounts
they gave of the favourable reception of their writings with the public. I was tempted to try my hand among them; but, being still a child as it were, I was fearful that my brother might be unwilling to print in his paper any performance of which he should know me to be the author. I therefore contrived to disguise my hand, and having written an anonymous piece, I placed it at night under the door of the printing-house, where it was found the next morning. My brother communicated it to his friends, when they came as usual to see him, who read it, commented upon it within my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure to find that it met with their approbation, and that, in the various conjectures they made respecting the author, no one was mentioned who did not enjoy a high reputation in the country for talents and genius. I now supposed myself fortunate in my judges, and began to suspect that they were not such excellent writers as I had hitherto supposed them. Be that as it may, encouraged by this little adventure, I wrote and sent to the press, in the same way many other pieces, which were equally approved ; keeping the secret till my slender stock of information and knowledge for such performances was pretty completely exhausted, when I made myself known.
My brother, upon his discovery, began to entertain a little more respect for me; but he still regarded himself as my master, and treated me like an apprentice. He thought himself entitled to the same services from me as from any other person. On the contrary, I conceived that, in many instances, he was too rigor. ous, and that, on the part of a brother, I had a right to expect greater indulgence. Our disputes were frequently brought before my father; and either
bro. ther was generally in the wrong, or I was the better pleader of the two, tor judgment was commonly given in my favour. But my brother was passionate, and often had recourse to blows; a circumstance which I took in very ill part. This severe and tyrannical treatment. contributed, I believe, to imprint on my mind that
arersion to arbitrary power, which during my whole life I have ever preserved. My apprenticeship became insupportable to me, and I continually sighed for an opportunity of shortening it, which at length unexpectedly offered.
An article inserted in our paper upon some political subject which I have now forgotten, gave offence to the Assembly; My brother was taken into custody, censured, and ordered into confinement for a month, because, as I presume, he would not discover the author. I was also taken up, and examined before the council; but, though I gave them no satisfaction, they contented themselves with reprimanding, and then dismissed me; considering me probably bound in quality of an apprentice, to keep my master's secrets.
The imprisonment of my brother kindled my resentment, notwithstanding our private quarrels. During its continuance the management of the paper was entrusted to me, and I was bold enough to insert some pasquerades against the governors; which highly pleased my brother, while others began to look upon me in an unfavourable point of view, considering me as a young wit inclined to satire and lampoon.
My brother's enlargement was accompanied with an arbitrary order from the house of assembly, “ That “ James Franklin should no longer print the newspa
per entitled the The New-Englard Courant." In this conjuncture, we held a consultation of our friends at the printing-house, in order to determine what was proper to be done. Some proposed to evade the order by changing the title of the paper: but my brother foreseeing inconveniencies that would result from this step, thought it better that it should in future be printed in the name of Benjamin Franklin ; and to avoid the censure of the assembly, who might charge him with still printing the paper himself, under the name of his apprentice, it was resolved that my old indentures should be given up to me, with a full and entire discharge written on the back, in order to be produced upon an emergency; but that, to secure to my bro
ther the benefit of my service, I should sign a new contract which should be kept secret during the remainder of the term. This was a very shallow arrangement. It was, however, carried into immediate execution, and the paper continued, in consequence, to make its appearance for some months in my name.
At length a new difference arising between my brother and me, I ventured to take advantage of my liberty, presuming that he would not dare to produce the new contract. It was undoubtedly dishonourable to avail myself of this circumstance, and I reckon this action as one of the first errors of my life; but I was little capable of estimating it at its true value, embittered as my mind had been by the recollection of the blows I had received. Exclusively of his passionate treatment of me, my brother was by no ineans a man of an ill temper, and perhaps. my manners had too much of impertinence not to afford it a very natural pretext.
When he knew that it was my determination to quit him, he wished to prevent my finding employment elsewhere. He went to all the printing houses in the town, and prejudiced the masters against me, who accordingly refused to employ me. The idea then suggested itself to me of going to New York, the nearest town in which there was a printing office. Farther reflection confirmed me in the design of leaving Boston, where I had already rendered myself an object of suspicion to the governing party. It was probable, from the arbitrary proceedings of the assembly in the affair of my brother, that by remaining I should soon have been exposed to difficulties, which I had the greater reason to apprehend, as from my indiscreet disputes upon the subject of religion, I begun to be regarded by pious souls with horror, either as an apostate or an atheist. I came, there. fore, to a resolution ; but my father, in this instance, siding with my brother, I presumed that if I attempted to depart openly, measures would be taken to prevent me. My friend Collins undertook to favour my flight. He agreed for my passage with the captain of a New York sloop, to whom he represented me as a young man