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Hvirigi and knew where they had formerly hid any, to take it up, and use it in their own necessary affairs; and as to all the rest which was buried by pirates and others in old times, who were never like to come for it, he himself had dug it all up and applied it to charitable uses; and this he desired me to publish for the general good. For, as he acquainted me, there are among us great numbers of honest artificers and laboring people, who, fed with a vain hope of growing suddenly rich, neglect their business, almost to the ruining of themselves and families, and voluntarily endure abundance of fatigue in a fruitless search after imaginary hidden treasure. They wander through the woods and bushes by day, to discover the marks and signs; at midnight they repair to the hopeful spots with spades and pickaxes: full of expectation, they labor violently, trembling at the same time in every joint, through fear of certain malicious demons who are said to haunt and guard such places. At length a mighty hole is dug, and perhaps several cart-loads of earth thrown out; but alas, no cag or iron pot is found! no seaman's chest crammed with Spanish pistoles, or weighty pieces of eight! Then they conclude, that through some mistake in the procedure, some rash word spoke, or some rule of art neglected, the guardian spirit had power to sink it deeper into the earth, and convey it out of their reach. Yet, when a man is once thus infatuated, he is so far from be? ing discouraged by ill success, that he is rather animated to double his industry, and will try again and again in a hundred different places, in hopes at last of meeting with some lucky hit, that shall at once sufficiently reward him for all his expense of time and labor. *. r .•>■.■
This odd humor of digging for money, through a belief that much has been hid by pirates formerly frequenting the river, has for several years been mighty prevalent among us; insomuch that you can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side, without observing several pits dug with that design, and perhaps some lately opened. Men, otherwise of very good sense, have been drawn into this practice through an overweening desire of sudden wealth, and an easy credulity of what they so earnestly wished might be true. While the rational and almost certain methods of acquiring riches by industry and frugality, are neglected or forgotten. There seems to be some peculiar charm in the conceit of finding money; and if the sands of Schuylkil were so much mixed with small grains of gold, that a man might in a days time, with care and application, get together to the value of half a crown, I make no question but we should find several people employed there, that can with ease earn five shillings a day at their proper trades.!: n '\\n :%•! .■n! ■■ .
! Many are the idle stories told of the private suecess of some people, by which others are encouraged to proceed; and the astrologers, with whom the country swarms at this time, are either in the belief of these things themselves, or find their advantage in persuading others to believe them; for they are often consulted about the critical times for digging, the methods of laying the spirit, and the like whimsies, which renders them very necessary to, and very much caressed by, the poor deluded money-hunters.
There is certainly something very bewitching in the pursuit after mines of gold and silver and other valuable metals, and many have been ruined by it. A sea-captain of my acquaintance used to blame the English for envying Spain their mines of silver, and too much despising or overlooking the advantages of their own industry and manufactures. "For my part," says he, "I esteem the banks of Newfoundland to be a more valuable possession than the mountains of Potosi; and when I have been there on the fishing account, have looked upon every cod pulled up into the vessel as a certain quantity of silver ore, which required only carrying to the next Spanish port to be coined into pieces of eight;" not to mention the national profit of fitting out and employing such a number of ships and seamen. Let honest Peter Buckram, who has long without success been a searcher after hidden money, reflect on this, and be reclaimed from that unaccountable folly. Let him consider, that every stitch he takes when he is on his shopboard, is picking up part of a grain of gold, that will in a few days' time amount to a pistole; and let Faber think the same of every nail he drives, or every stroke with his plane. Such thoughts may make them industrious, and in consequence, in time they may be wealthy: but how absurd is it to neglect a certain profit for such a ridiculous whimsey! to spend whole days at the George, in company with an idle pretender to astrology, contriving schemes to discover what was never hidden, and forgetful how carelessly business is managed at home in their absence; to leave their wives and a warm bed at midnight (no matter if it rain, hail, snow, or blow a hurricane, provided that be the critical hour) and fatigue themselves with the violent exercise of digging for what they shall never find, and perhaps getting a cold that may cost their lives, or at least disordering themselves so as to be fit for no business beside for some days after. Surely this is nothing less than the most egregious folly and madness.
I shall conclude with the words of my discreet friend Agricola, of Chester county, when he gave his son a good plantation:—" My son," said he, "I give thee now a valuable parcel of land; I assure thee I have found a considerable quantity of gold by digging there; thee mayst do the same; but thee must carefully observe this, Never to dig more than plow-deep."
[The foregoing are the only Numbers of the BusyBody ascertained to be from the pen of Franklin; they were written when he was about 23 years of age.]
DIALOGUE BETWEEN PHILOCLES AND HORATIO, MEETING ACCIDENTALLY IN THE FIELDS, CONCERNING VIRTUE AND PLEASURE.
, • ) .'From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 84, June 23, 1730.' ,
Philocles. My friend Horatio! I am very glad to see you; prithee how came such a man as you alone? and musing too? What misfortune in your pleasures has sent you to philosophy for relief?
Horatio. You guess very right, my dear Philocles: we pleasure-hunters are never without them; and yet, so enchanting is the game, we cannot quit the chace. How calm and undisturbed is your life! how free from present embarrassments and future cares! I know you love me, and look
1 This and the seven Essays following, have never before been published in Europe. They are taken from an American collection; the editor of which fully ascertained their authenticity.