Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

agreed about once a month to spend a social evening together, in discoursing and communicating such ideas as occurred to us upon the subject of fires, as might be useful in our conduct on such occasions.” The utility of this institution soon appeared, and many more desiring to be admitted than we thought convenient for one company, they were advised to form another, which was accordingly done; and thus went on one new company after another, till they became so numerous as to include most of the inhabitants who were men of property; and now, at the time of my writing this, though upwards of fifty years since its establishment, that which I first formed, called the Union Fire Company, still subsists; though the first members are all deceased but one, who is older by a year than I am. The fines that have been paid by members for absence at the monthly meetings have been applied to the purchase of fire-engines, ladders, fire-hooks, and other useful implements for each company; so that I question whether there is a city in the world better provided with the means of putting a stop to beginning conflagrations; and, in fact, since these institutions, the city has never lost by fire more than one or two houses at a time, and the flames have often been extinguished before the house in which they began has been half consumed.

* In the Pennsylvania Gazette for February 4th, 1734–5, is a paper on this subject, which was probably written by Franklin. It begins as follows. “Being old and lame of my hands, and thereby incapable of assisting my fellow citizens when their houses are on fire, I must beg them to take in good part the following hints on the subject of fires. “In the first place, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I would advise them to take care how they suffer living brand-ends, or coals in a full shovel, to be carried out of one room into another, or up or down stairs, unless in a warming-pan, shut; for scraps of fire may fall into chinks, and make no appearance till midnight, when, your stairs being in flames, you may be forced, as I once was, to leap out of your windows, and hazard your necks to avoid being over-roasted. And now we talk of prevention, where would be the damage, if, to the act for regulating bakehouses and coopers' shops, a clause were added to regulate all other causes in the particulars of too shallow hearths, and the detestable practice of putting wooden mouldings on each side of the fireplace, which, being commonly of heart of pine and full of turpentine, stand ready to flame as soon as a coal or a small brand shall roll against them?” He then proceeds to speak of the caution necessary in the building and sweeping of chimneys, and dwells at considerable length on the best modes of extinguishing fires, and the advantages of a proper organization of fire companies. – Editor.

CHAPTER VIII.

Forms an Intimacy with Whitefield. — Building erected for Preachers of all Denominations.—Character of Whitefield, his Oratory and Writings.-Partnerships in the Printing Business. – Proposes a Philosophical Society. — Takes an active Part in providing Means of Defence in the Spanish War. — Forms an Association for that Purpose. — Sentiments of the Quakers. — James Logan. — Anecdote of William Penn.— The Sect called Dunkers. — Religious Creeds. – New-invented Fireplace.

IN 1739, arrived among us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our churches; but the clergy, taking a dislike to him, soon refused him their pulpits, and he was obliged to preach in the fields. The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was a matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admired and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them, they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every Street.

And it being found inconvenient to assemble in the open air, subject to its inclemencies, the building of a house to meet in was no sooner proposed, and persons appointed to receive contributions, than sufficient sums were soon received to procure the ground, and erect the building, which was one hundred feet long and seventy broad; and the work was carried on with such spirit as to be finished in a much shorter time than could have been expected. Both house and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion, who might desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building being not to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mahometanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service. Mr. Whitefield, on leaving us, went preaching all the way through the colonies to Georgia. The settlement of that province had been lately begun, but, instead of being made with hardy, industrious husbandmen, accustomed to labor, the only people fit for such an enterprise, it was with families of broken shopkeepers and other insolvent debtors; many of indolent and idle habits, taken out of the jails, who, being set down in the woods, unqualified for clearing land, and unable to endure the hardships of a new settlement, perished in numbers, leaving many helpless children unprovided for. The sight of their miserable situation inspired the benevolent heart of Mr. Whitefield, with the idea of building an Orphan House there, in which they might be supported and educated. Returning northward, he preached up this charity, and made large collections; for his eloquence had a wonderful power over the hearts and purses of his hearers, of which I myself was an instance. I did not disapprove of the design, but, as Georgia was then destitute of materials and workmen, and it was proposed to send them from Philadelphia at a VOL. I. 18 L *

great expense, I thought it would have been better to have built the house at Philadelphia, and brought the children to it. This I advised; but he was resolute in his first project, rejected my counsel, and I therefore refused to contribute. I happened soon after to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the copper. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so admirably, that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector's dish, gold and all. At this sermon there was also one of our club, who, being of my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be intended, had by precaution emptied his pockets before he came from home. Towards the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong inclination to give, and applied to a neighbour, who stood near him, to lend him some money for the purpose. The request was sortunately made to perhaps the only man in the company, who had the firmness not to be affected by the preacher. His answer was, “At any other time, friend Hopkinson, I would lend to thee freely; but not now; for thee seems to be out of thy right senses.” Some of Mr. Whitefield's enemies affected to suppose that he would apply these collections to his own private emolument; but I, who was intimately acquainted with him, being employed in printing his Sermons and Journals, never had the least suspicion of his integrity; but am to this day decidedly of opinion, that he was in all his conduct a perfectly homest

« ZurückWeiter »