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my own mind; and was at the time rather disappointed when I found myself recovering; regretting in some degree that I must now, sometime or other, have all that disagreeable work to do over again."
The death of Mr. Denham broke up the establishment, and Franklin was thrown out of employment. Keimer, in whose service he had formerly been engaged, again made him an offer to superintend a printing office. Franklin accepted the proposition. There were five inefficient hands, whom Franklin was expected to transform into accomplished printers. With these, and a few others, he organized a literary club, called the “ Junto; or the Leathern Apron Club," as nearly every member was a mechanic.
The club met every Friday evening, and the wine cup, to stimulate conviviality, passed freely among them. There were twenty-four questions, which were every evening read, to which answers were to be returned by any one who could answer them. Between each question, it was expected that each member would fill, and empty, his glass. One would think that the wine must have been very weak, or the heads of these young men very strong, to enable them to quaff twenty-four glasses unharmed. We give a few of the questions as specimens of their general character.
I. “Have you met with anything in the author you last read ?
3. "Has any citizen in your knowledge failed, and have you heard the cause ?
7. “What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed ?
12. “ Has any deserving stranger arrived in town since your last meeting ?
16. “Has anybody attacked your reputation lately?
23. “Is there any difficulty which you would gladly have discussed at this time?”
Debates, declamation, and the reading of essays added to the entertainment of these gatherings. Stories were told, and bacchanal songs sung. No man could tell a better story, and few men could sing a better song than Benjamin Franklin. No one was deemed a suitable member of the club, who would not contribute his full quota to the entertainment or instruction. The questions proposed by Franklin for discussion, developed the elevated intellectual region his thoughts were accustomed to range. We give a few as specimens. .
“Can any one particular form of government suit all mankind ?
“Should it be the aim of philosophy to eradicate the passions ?
“Is perfection attainable in this life?
“What general conduct of life is most suitable for men in such circumstances as most of the members of the Junto are ?"
The Junto was limited to twelve members. It soon became so popular that applications for admission became very frequent. Six months passed rapidly away, when Keimer, who was an exceedingly immoral and worthless man, and was fast going to ruin, in some fit of drunkenness, or ungovernable irritation, entered the office, and assailed Franklin with such abuse, that he took his hat, and repaired to his lodgings, resolved never to return.
Franklin was twenty-one years of age. He had laid up no money. He was still but a journeyman printer. The draft which he had received from Mr. Vernon for fifty dollars had not yet been paid. He was exceedingly mortified when he allowed himself to reflect upon this delinquency which certainly approached dishonesty. In this emergence he conferred with a fellow journeyman by the name of Hugh Meredith, whose father was a gentleman of considerable property. Meredith proposed that they should enter into partnership, he furnishing the funds, and Franklin the business capacity. .
At that time Franklin, remembering his narrow escape from the grave by the pleurisy, wrote his own
epitaph which has been greatly celebrated. It has generally been admired; but some of more sensitive minds perceive in it a tone which is somewhat repulsive.
“ The Body
Its contents torn out,
Lies here, food for worms.
In a new
The excellencies of Franklin did not run in the line of exquisite sensibilities. At the early age of fifteen he began to cast off the restraints of the religion of his father and mother. Nearly all his associates were what were called Free-thinkers. He could not be blind to their moral imperfections. Mr. Parton writes,
“His old friend Collins, he remembered, was a Free-thinker, and Collins had gone astray. Ralph was a Free-thinker, and Ralph was a great sinner. Keith was a Free-thinker, and Keith was the great
est liar in Pennsylvania. Benjamin Franklin was a Free-thinker, and how shamefully he had behaved to Ralph's mistress, to Mr. Vernon and Miss Read, whose young life had been blighted through him." *
Franklin's creed thus far, consisted only of negations. He had no belief; he had only unbelief. Indeed he scems to have become quite ashamed of his treatise upon Liberty and Necessity, published in London, and felt constrained to write a refutation of it.t As this strange young man in his dis
* Parton's Life of Franklin, Vol 1, p. 168.
+ "My arguments perverted some others, especially Collins and Ralph. But each of these having wronged me greatly without the least compunction; and recollecting Keith's conduct towards me, who was another Free-thinker, and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful. My London pamphlet, printed in 1725, and which had for its motto,
“Whatever is is right,” and which from the attributes of God, His infinite wisdom, goodness and power, concluded that nothing could possibly be wrong in the world, and that vice and virtue were empty distinctions, no such things existing, appeared now not so clever a performance, as I once thought it; and I doubted whether some error had not insinuated itself unper. ceived into my argument."
In the year 1779, Dr. Franklin wrote to Dr. Benjamin Vaughn respecting this pamphlet.
“There were only one hundred copies printed, of which I gave a few to friends. Afterwards, disliking the piece, I burnt the rest, except one copy. I was not nineteen years of age when it was written. In 1730, I wrote a piece on the other side of the question, which began with laying for its foundation that almost all men, in all ages and countries, have at times made use of prayer.
“Thence I reasoned that if all things are ordained, prayer must be