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I knew him not; but he stopped one day at my door, and asked me if I was the young man who had lately sat up a new printing house." Upon 'my answering in the affirmative, he said that he was very sorry for me, as it was an expensive undertaking, and the money that had been laid out upon it would be lost, Philadelphia being a place falling into decay; its inhabitants having all or nearly all of them, been obliged to cail together their creditors. That he knew from undoubted fact, the circumstances which might lead us to suppose the contrary, such as new buildings and the advanced price of rent, to be deceitful appearances, which in reality contributed to hasten the general ruin ; and he gave me so long a detail of misfortunes, actually existing, or which were soon to take place, that he left me almost in a state of despair. Had I known this man before I entered into trade, I should doubtless never have ventured. He, however, continued to live in this place of decay, and to declaim in the same style, refusing for many years to buy a house, because all was going to wreck; and in the end I had the satisfaction to see him pay five times as much for one as it would cost him had he purchased it when he first began his lamentations.
I ought to have related, that, during the autumn of the preceding year, I had united the majority of well-informed persons of my acquaintance into a club which we called by the name of the Junto, and the object of which was to improve our understandings. We met every Friday evening. The regulations I drew up, obliged every member to propose, in his turn, one or more questions upon some point of morality, politics, or philosophy, which were to be discussed by the society; and to read once in three months, an essay of his own composition, on whatever subject he pleased. Our debates were under the direction of a president, and were to be dictated only by a sincere desire of truth; the pleasure of disputing, and the vanity of triumph having no share in the business; and in order to prevent undue warmth, every expression which im
plied obstinate adherence to an opinion and all direct contradiction, were prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.
The first members of our club were Joseph Breintnal, whose occupation was that of a scrivener. He was a middle-aged man, of a good natural disposition, strongly attached to his friends, a great lover of poetry, reading every thing that came in his way, and writing tolerably well, ingenious in many little trifles, and of an agreeable conversation.
Thomas Godfrey, a skilful, though self-taught mathematician, and who was afterwards the inventor of what now goes by the name of Hadley's dial; but he had little knowledge out of his own line, and was insupportable in company, always requiring, like the majority of mathematicians that have fallen in my way, an unusual precision in every thing that is said, continually contradicting or making triffing distinctions; a sure way of defeating all the ends of conversation. He very soon left us.
Nicholas Scull, a surveyor, and who became afterwards surveyor-general. He was fond of books, and wrote verses.
William Parsons, brought up to the trade of a shoemaker, but who having a taste for reading, had acquired a profound knowledge of mathematics. He first studied them with a view to astrology, and was afterwards the first to laugh at his folly. He also became surveyor. general.
William Mawgridge, a joiner, and a very excellent mechanic; and in other respects a man of solid understanding
Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb, of whom I have already spoken.
Robert Grace, a young man of fortune; generous, animated, and witty; fond of epigrams, but more fond of his friends.
And lastly, William Coleman, at that time a merchant's clerk, and nearly of my own age. He had a cooler and clearer head, a better heart, and more scrupulous morals, than almost any other person I have ever met with. He became a very respectable merchant, and one of our provincial judges. Our friendship subsisted, without interruption, for more than forty years, till the period of his death; and the club continued to exist almost as long.
This was the best school of politics and philosophy that then existed in the province ; for our questions which were read a week previous to their discussion, induced us to peruse attentively such books as were written upon the subjects proposed, that we might be able to speak upon them more pertinently. We thus acquired the habit of conversing more agreeably; every object being discussed conformably to our regulations, and in a manner to prevent mutual disgust. To this circumstance may be attributed the long duration of the club; which I shall have frequent occasion to mention as I proceed.
I have introduced it here, as being one of the means on which I had to count for success in my business; every member exerting himself to procure work for us. Breintnal, among others, obtained for us, on the part of the Quakers, the printing of forty sheets of their history; of which the rest was to be done by Keimer. Our execution of this work was by no means masterly; as the price was very low. It was in folio, upon po patria paper, and in the fica letter, with heavy notes in the smallest type. I composed a sheet a day, and Meredith put it to: the press. It was frequently eleven o'clock at night, sometimes later, before I had finished iny distribution for the next day's task; for the little things which our friends occasionally sent us, kept us back in this work: but I was so determined to compose a sheet a day, that one evening, when iny form was imposed, and my day's work, as I thought, at an end, an accident having broken this form, and deranged two complete folio pages, I immediately distributed, and composed them anew before I went to bed.
This unwearied industry, which was perceived by our neighbours, began to acquire us reputation and credit. I learned among other things, that our new printinghouse being the subject of conversation at a club of merchants, who met every evening, it was the general opinion that it would fail; there being already two printing houses in the town, Keimer's and Bradford's. But Dr. Bard, whom you and I had occasion to see, many years after, at his native town of St. Andrews in Scotland, was of a different opinion, “The industry of this Franklin (said he) is superior to any thing of the kind I have ever witnessed. I see him still at work when I return from the club at night, and he is at it again in the morning before his neighbours are out of bed.” This account struck the rest of the assembly, and shortly after one of its members came to our house, and offered to supply us with articles of stationary; but we wished not as yet to embarrass ourselves with keeping a shop. It is not for the sake of applause that I enter so freely into the particulars of my industry, but that such of my descendants as shall read these memoirs may know the use of this virtue, by seeing in the recital of my life the effects it operated in my favour.
George Webb, having found a friend who lent him the necessary sum to buy out his time of Keimer, came one day to offer himself to us as a journeyman. We could not employ him immediately; but I foolishly told him under the rose, that I intended shortly to publish a new periodical paper, and that we should then have work for him. My hopes of success which I imparted to him, were founded on the circumstance, that the only paper we had in Philadelphia at that time, and which Bradford printed, was a paltry thing, miserably conducted, in no respect amusing, and which yet was profitable. I consequently supposed that a good work of this kind could not fail of success. Webb betrayed my secret to Keimer, who, to prevent me, immediately published the prospectus of a paper that he intended to institute himself, and in which Webb was to be engaged.
I was exasperated at this proceeding, and, with a view to counteract them, not being able at present to institute my own paper, I wrote, some humorous pieces in Bradford's, under the title of the Busy Body;* and which was continued for several months by Breintnal. I hereby fixed the attention of the public upon Bradford's paper, and the prospectus of Keimer, which we turned into ridicule, was treated with contempt. He began, notwithstanding, his reper; and after continuing it for nine months, having at most not more than ninety subscribers, he offered it to me for, at mere
trifle. I had for some time been ready for such an engagement; I therefore instantly took it upon myself, and in a few years it proved extremely profitable to
I perceive that I am apt to speak in the first person, though our partnership still continued. It is, perhaps, because, in fact, the whole business devolved upon me.
Meredith was no compositor, and but an indifferent pressman: and it was rarely that he abstained from hard drinking. My friends were sorry to see me connected with him ; but I contrived to derive from it the utmost advantage the case admitted.
Our first number produced no other effect than any other paper which had appeared in the province, as to type and printing ; but some remarks, in my. peculiar style of writing, upon the dispute which then prevailed between governor Burnet, and the Massachusetts assembly, struck some persons as above mediocrity, caused the paper and its editors to be talked of, and in a few weeks induced them to become our subscribers. Many others followed their example; and our subscripcion continued to increase. This was one of the first good effects of the pains I
* A manuscript note in the file of the American Mercury, preserved in the Philadelphia library, says, that Franklin wrote the first five numbers and part of the eighth.