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And here let me with all humility acknowledge, that to divine providence I am indebted for the felicity I have hitherto enjoyed. It is that power alone which has furnished me with the means I have employed, and that has crowned them with success.
My faith in this respect leads me to hope, though I cannot count upon it, that the divine goodness will still be exercised towards me, either by prolonging the duration of my happiness, to the close of life, or by giving me forti. tude to support any melancholy reverse, which may happen to me, as to so many others. My future fortune is unknown but to him in whose hand is cur destiny, and who can make our very afflictions subservient to our benefit.
One of my uncles, desirous, like myself, of collect. ing anecdotes of our family, gave me some notes, from which I have derived many particulars respecting our ancestors. From these I learn, that they had lived in the same village (Eaton in Northamptonshire) upon a freehold of about thirty acres, for the space at least of three hundred years. How long they had resided there prior to that period, my uncle had been unable to discover; probably ever since the institution of surnames, when they took the appellation of Franklin ; which had formerly been the name of a particular order of individuals. *
* As a proof that Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in England, see Judge Fortescue, De laudibus legum Angliæ, written about the year 1412, in which is the following passage, to shew that good juries might easily be, formed in any part of England :
“Regio etiam illa, ita respersa refertaque est possessoribus terrarum et agrorum, quod in ea, villula tam pårva reperiri non poterit, in qua non est miles, armiger, vel pater-familias, qualis ibidem franklin vulgariter nuncupatur, magnis ditatus possessionibus, nec non liberi, tenentes at alii ealecti plurimi, suis patrimoniis sufficientes, ad faciendum juratum, in forma prænotata."
“ Moreover, the same country is so filled and replenished
never made use of it, I have now forgotten it. He was a man of piety, and a constant attendant on the best preachers, whose sermons he took a pleasure in writing down according to the expeditory method he ha: devised. Many volumes were thus collected by him. He was also extremely fond of politics, too much so perhaps for his situation. I lately found in London a collection wbich he had made of all the principal pamphlets relative to public affairs, from the year 1641 to 1717. Many volumes are wanting, as appears by the series of numbers; but there still remain eight in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and octavo. The collection had fallen into the hands of a second-hand bookseller, who, knowing me by having sold me some books, brought it to me. My uncle, it seems, had left it behind him on his departure for America, about fifty years ago. I found various notes of his writing in the margins. His grandson, Samuel, is now living at Boston.
Our humble family had early embraced the Reformation. They remained faithfully attached during the reign of queen Mary; when they were in danger of being inolested on account of their zeal against Popery. They had an English bible, and to conceal it the more securely, they conceived the project of fastening it, open, with pack-threads across the leaves, on the inside of the lid of a close-stool. When my great grandfather wished to read to his family, he reversed the lid of the close-stool upon his knees, and passed the leaves from one side to the other, which were held down on each by the pack-thread. One of the children was stationed at the door to give notice if he saw the proctor (an officer of the spiritual court) make his appearance : in that case the lid was restored to its place with the bible concealed under it as before. I had this anecdote from my uncle Benjamin.
The whole family preserved its attachment to the Church of England till towards the close of the reign of
Charles II.' when certain ministers, who had been ejected as non-conformists, having held Conventicles in Northamptonshire, they were joined by Benjamin and Josias, who adhered to them ever after. The rest of the family continued in the Episcopal Church.
My father, Josias, married early in life. He went, with his wife and three children, to New-England, about the year 1682. Conventicles being at that time prohibited by law, and frequently disturbed, some considerable persons of his acquaintance determined to go to America, where they hoped to enjoy the free exercise of their religion, and my father was prevailed on to accompany them.
My father had also, by the same wife, four children born in America, and ten others by a second wife ; making in all seventeen. I remember to have seen thirteen seated together at his table, who all arrived to years of maturity, and were married. I was the last of the sons, and the youngest child, excepting two daughters. I was born at Boston, in New-England. My mother, the second wife, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first colonists of New-England, of whom Cotton Mather makes honorable mention, in his Ecclesiastical History of that province, as “ a pious and learned Englishman," If I rightly recollect his expressions. I have been told of his having written a variety of little pieces ; but there appears to be only one in print, which I met with many years ago. It was published in the year 1675, and is in familiar verse, agreeably to the taste of the times and the country. The author addresses himself to the governors for the time being, speaks for liberty of conscience, and in favor of the anabaptists, quakers, and other sectaries, who had suffered persecution.To this persecution he attributes the war with the natives, and other calamities which afflicted the country, regarding them as the judgments of God in pun: ishment of so odious an offence; and he exhorts the
government to the repeal of laws so contrary to charity. The poem appeared to be written with a manly freedom, and a pleasing simplicity. I recollect the six concluding lines, though I have forgotten the order of the words of the two first ; the sense of which was, that his censures were dictated by benevolence, and that, of consequence, he wished to be known as the author ; because, said he, I hate from my very soul dissimulation :
From Sherburne, * where I dwell,
I therefore put my name,
My brothers were all put apprentice to different trades. With respect to myself, I was sent at the age of eight years, to a grammar school. My father destined me for the church, and already regarded me as the chaplain of the family. The promptitude with which, from my infancy, I had learned to read, (for I do not remember to have been ever without this acquirement) and the encouragement of his friends, who assured him that I should one day certainly become a man of letters, confirmed him in this design. My uncle Benjamin approved also of the scheme, and promised to give me all his volumes of sermons, written, as I have said, in the short-hand of his invention, if I would take the pains to learn it.
I remained, however, scarcely a year at grammar sehool, although, in this short interval, I had risen from the middle to the head of my class, from thence to the class immediately above, and was to pass, at the end of the year, to the one next in order. But my father, burthened with a numerous family, found that he was incapable, without subjecting himself to difficulties, of providing for the expence of a collegiate edu
* Town in the Island of Nantucket.
cation ; and considering besides, as I heard him say to his friends, that persons so educated were often poorly provided for, he renounced his first intentions, took me from the grammar school, and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a Mr. George Brownwel, who was a skilful master, and succeeded very well in his profession, by employing gentle means only, and such as were calculated to encourage his scholars. Under him I soon acquired an excellent hand ; but I failed in arithmetic, and made therein no sort of progress.
At ten years of age I was called home to assist my father in his occupation, which was that of soap boiler and tallow-chandler; a business to which lie had seryed no apprenticeship, but which he embraced on his
rival in New-England, because he found his own,' it of a dyer, in too little request to enable him to inaintain his family. I was accordingly employed in cutting the wicks, filling the moulds, taking care of the shop, carrying messages, &c.
This business displeased me, and I felt a strong inclination for a sea life ; but my father set his face against it. The vicinity of the water, however, gave me frequent opportunities of venturing myself both upon and within it, and I soon acquired the art of smimming, and of managing a boat. When embark, ed with other children, the helm was commonly deputed to me, particularly on difficult occasions; and, in every other project, I was almost always the leader of the troop, whom I sometimes involved in embarrassments. I shall give an instance of this, which demonstrates an early disposition of mind for public enterprises, though the one in question was not conducted by justice.
The mill-pond was terminated on one side by a marsh, upon the borders of which we were accustomed to take our stand, at high water, to angle for small fish. By dint of walking, we had converted the place