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the supposition, that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing, that the regret may be the same either way, and therefore that the safer should be chosen. Our club, the Junto, was found so useful, and afforded such satisfaction to the members, that some were desirous of introducing their friends, which could not well be done without exceeding what we had settled as a convenient number; viz. twelve. We had from the beginning made it a rule to keep our institution a secret, which was pretty well observed; the intention was, to avoid applications of improper persons for admittance, some of whom, perhaps, we might find it difficult to refuse. I was one of those, who were against any addition to our number, but instead of it made in writing a proposal, that every member separately should endeavour to form a subordinate club, with the same rules respecting queries, &c., and without informing them of the connexion with the Junto. The advantages proposed were, the improvement of so many more young citizens by the use of our institutions; our better acquaintance with the general sentiments of the inhabitants on any occasion, as the Junto member might propose what queries we should desire, and was to report to the Junto what passed at his separate club; the promotion of our particular interests in business by more extensive recommendation, and the increase of our influence in public affairs, and our power of doing good by spreading through the several clubs the sentiments of the Junto. The project was approved, and every member undertook to form his club; but they did not all succeed. Five or six only were completed, which were called by different names, as the Vine, the Union, the Band. They were useful to themselves, and afforded WOL. I. 17
us a good deal of amusement, information, and instruction; besides answering, in some considerable degree, our views of influencing the public on particular occasions; of which I shall give some instances in course of time as they happened. My first promotion was my being chosen, in 1736, clerk of the General Assembly. The choice was made that year without opposition; but the year following, when I was again proposed, (the choice like that of the members being annual,) a new member made a long speech against me, in order to favor some other candidate. I was however chosen, which was the more agreeable to me, as, besides the pay for the immediate service of clerk, the place gave me a better opportunity of keeping up an interest among the members, which secured to me the business of printing the votes, laws, paper money, and other occasional jobs for the public, that, on the whole, were very profitable. I therefore did not like the opposition of this new member, who was a gentleman of fortune and education, with talents that were likely to give him in time great influence in the House, which indeed afterwards happened. I did not, however, aim at gaining his favor by paying any servile respect to him, but, after some time, took this other method. Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting that he would do me the favor of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately; and I returned it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly the sense of the favor. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me, which he had never done before, and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great
friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, “He, that has once done you a kindness, will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” And it shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to resent, return, and continue, inimical proceedings. In 1737, Colonel Spotswood, late governor of Virginia, and then postmaster-general, being dissatisfied with the conduct of his deputy at Philadelphia, respecting some negligence in rendering, and want of exactness in framing, his accounts, took from him the commission and offered it to me. I accepted it readily, and found it of great advantage; for, though the salary was small, it facilitated the correspondence that improved my newspaper, increased the number demanded, as well as the advertisements to be inserted, so that it came to afford me a considerable income. My old competitor's newspaper declined proportionably, and I was satisfied without retaliating his refusal, while postmaster, to permit my papers being carried by the riders. Thus he suffered greatly from his neglect in due accounting; and I mention it as a lesson to those young men, who may be employed in managing affairs for others, that they should always render accounts, and make remittances, with great clearness and punctuality. The character of observing such a conduct is the most powerful of all recommendations to new employments and increase of business.”
* Before this appointment, he had been favored in regard to the circulation of his newspaper. On the 28th of January, 1735, he says; “By the indulgence of the Honorable Colonel Spotswood, PostmasterGeneral, the printer hereof is allowed to send the Gazettes by the post, postage free, to all parts of the post-road, from Virginia to New England.” The following advertisement indicates nearly the time at which he assumed the duties of postmaster, and also the degree of speed with which the mail was then conveyed.
I began now to turn my thoughts to public affairs, beginning however with small matters. The city watch was one of the first things that I conceived to want regulation. It was managed by the constables of the respective wards in turn; the constable summoned a number of housekeepers to attend him for the night. Those, who chose never to attend, paid him six shillings a year to be excused, which was supposed to go to hiring substitutes, but was in reality much more than was necessary for that purpose, and made the constableship a place of profit; and the constable, for a little drink, often got such ragamuffins about him as a watch, that respectable housekeepers did not choose to mix with. Walking the rounds, too, was often neglected, and most of the nights spent in tippling. I thereupon wrote a paper to be read in the Junto, representing these irregularities, but insisting more particularly on the inequality of the six shilling tax of the constable, respecting the circumstances of those who paid it; since a poor widow housekeeper, all whose property to be guarded by the watch did not perhaps exceed the value of fifty pounds, paid as much as the wealthiest merchant, who had thousands of pounds’ worth of goods in his stores. On the whole I proposed as a more effectual watch, the hiring of proper men to serve constantly in the business; and as a more equitable way of supporting the charge, the levying a tax that should be proportioned to the property. This idea, being approved by the Junto, was communicated to the other clubs, but as originating in each of them; and though the plan was not immediately carried into execution, yet, by preparing the minds of people for the change, it paved the way for the law obtained a few years after, when the members of our clubs were grown into more influence. About this time I wrote a paper (first to be read in the Junto, but it was afterwards published,) on the different accidents and carelessnesses by which houses were set on fire, with cautions against them, and means proposed of avoiding them. This was spoken of as a useful piece, and gave rise to a project, which soon followed it, of forming a company for the more ready extinguishing of fires, and mutual assistance in removing and securing of goods when in danger. Associates in this scheme were presently found, amounting to thirty. Our articles of agreement obliged every member to keep always in good order, and fit for use, a certain number of leathern buckets, with strong bags and baskets (for packing and transporting of goods), which were to be brought to every fire; and we WOL. I. L
October 27th, 1737. —“Notice is hereby given, that the postoffice of Philadelphia is now kept at B. Franklin's, in Market Street; and that Henry Pratt is appointed Riding Postmaster for all the stages between Philadelphia and Newport in Virginia, who sets out about the beginning of each month, and returns in twenty-four days; by whom gentlemen, merchants, and others, may have their letters carefully conveyed, and business faithfully transacted, he having given good security for the same to the Honorable Colonel Spotswood, Postmaster-General of all his Majesty's Dominions in America.”
Six years afterwards some improvement had taken place in the transmission of the mail. In an advertisement, dated April 14th, 1743, he says: “After this week, the northern post will set out for New York on Thursdays at three o'clock in the afternoon till Christmas. The southern post sets out next Monday at eight o'clock for Annapolis, and continues going every fortnight during the summer season.” In winter the post between Philadelphia and New York went once a fortnight.
The following characteristic advertisement is contained in the Pennsylvania Gazette for June 23d, 1737. —“Taken out of a pew in the Church, some months since, a Common Prayer Book, bound in red, gilt, and lettered D. F. [Deborah Franklin] on each cover. The person who took it is desired to open it and read the eighth Commandment, and afterwards return it into the same pew again; upon which no further notice will be taken.”— Editor.