« ZurückWeiter »
man and Robert Grace. I told them I could not propose a separation, while any prospect remained of the Merediths’ fulfilling their part of our agreement; because I thought myself under great obligations to them for what they had done, and would do if they could; but, if they finally failed in their performance, and our partnership must be dissolved, I should then think myself at liberty to accept the assistance of my friend. Thus the matter rested for some time, when I said to my partner, “Perhaps your father is dissatisfied at the part you have undertaken in this affair of ours, and is unwilling to advance for you and me, what he would for you. If that is the case, tell me, and I will resign the whole to you, and go about my business.” “No,” said he, “my father has really been disappointed, and is really unable; and I am unwilling to distress him further. I see this is a business I am not fit for. I was bred a farmer, and it was folly in me to come to town, and put myself, at thirty years of age, an apprentice to learn a new trade. Many of our Welsh people are going to settle in North Carolina, where land is cheap. I am inclined to go with them, and follow my old employment; you may find friends to assist you. If you will take the debts of the company upon you, return to my father the hundred pounds he has advanced, pay my little personal debts, and give me thirty pounds and a new saddle, I will relinquish the partnership and leave the whole in your hands.” I agreed to this proposal; it was drawn up in writing, signed, and sealed immediately. I gave him what he demanded, and he went soon after to Carolina; whence he sent me next year two long letters, containing the best account that had been given of that country, the climate, the soil, and husbandry, for in those matters WOL. I. 12 - H *
he was very judicious. I printed them in the papers, and they gave great satisfaction to the public. As soon as he was gone, I recurred to my two friends; and because I would not give an unkind preference to either, I took half of what each had offered and I wanted of one, and half of the other; paid off the company’s debts, and went on with the business in my own name; advertising that the partnership was dissolved. I think this was in or about the year 1729.” About this time there was a cry among the people for more paper money; only fifteen thousand pounds being extant in the province, and that soon to be sunk. The wealthy inhabitants opposed any addition, being against all paper currency, from the apprehension that it would depreciate as it had done in New England, to the injury of all creditors. We had discussed this point in our Junto, where I was on the side of an addition; being persuaded, that the first small sum struck in 1723 had done much good by increasing the trade, employment, and number of inhabitants in the province; since I now saw all the old houses inhabited, and many new ones building; whereas I remembered well, when I first walked about the streets of Philadelphia, eating my roll, I saw many of the houses in Walnut Street, between Second and Front Streets, with bills on their doors, “To be let’’; and many likewise in Chestnut Street and other streets; which made me think the inhabitants of the city were one after another deserting it. Our debates possessed me so fully of the subject, that I wrote and printed an anonymous pamphlet on it, entitled, “The JVature and .Wecessity of a Paper Currency.” It was well received by the common people in general; but the rich men disliked it, for it increased and strengthened the clamor for more money; and, they happening to have no writers among them that were able to answer it, their opposition slackened, and the point was carried by a majority in the House. My friends there, who considered I had been of some service, thought fit to reward me, by employing me in printing the money; a very profitable job, and a great help to me. This was another advantage gained by my being able to write. The utility of this currency became by time and experience so evident, that the principles upon which it was founded were never afterwards much disputed; so that it grew soon to fifty-five thousand pounds; and in 1739, to eighty thousand pounds; trade, building, and inhabitants all the while increasing. Though I now think there are limits, beyond which the quantity may be hurtful. I soon after obtained, through my friend Hamilton, the printing of the Newcastle paper money, another profitable job, as I then thought it; small things appearing great to those in small circumstances; and these to me were really great advantages, as they were great encouragements. Mr. Hamilton procured for me also the printing of the laws and votes of that government; which continued in my hands as long as I followed the business. I now opened a small stationer's shop. I had in it blanks of all kinds; the correctest that ever appeared among us. I was assisted in that by my friend Breintnal. I had also paper, parchment, chapmen’s books, &c. One Whitemarsh, a compositor I had known in London, an excellent workman, now came to me, and worked with me constantly and diligently; and I took an apprentice, the son of Aquila Rose. I began now gradually to pay off the debt I was under for the printing-house. In order to secure my credit and character as a tradesman, I took care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid the appearances to the contrary. I dressed plain, and was seen at no places of idle diversion. I never went out a fishing or shooting; a book indeed sometimes debauched me from my work, but that was seldom, was private, and gave no scandal; and, to show that I was not above my business, I sometimes brought home the paper I purchased at the stores, through the streets on a wheelbarrow. Thus being esteemed an industrious, thriving young man, and paying duly for what I bought, the merchants who imported stationery solicited my custom; others proposed supplying me with books, and I went on prosperously. In the mean time, Keimer's credit and business declining daily, he was at last forced to sell his printing-house, to satisfy his creditors. He went to Barbadoes, and there lived some years in very poor circumstances. His apprentice, David Harry, whom I had instructed while I worked with him, set up in his place at Philadelphia, having bought his materials. I was at first apprehensive of a powerful rival in Harry, as his friends were very able, and had a good deal of interest. I therefore proposed a partnership to him, which he fortunately for me rejected with scorn. He was very proud, dressed like a gentleman, lived expensively, took much diversion and pleasure abroad, ran in debt, and neglected his business; upon which, all business left him; and, finding nothing to do, he followed Keimer to Barbadoes, taking the printing-house with him. There this apprentice employed his former master as a journeyman; they quarrelled often, and Harry went continually behindhand, and at length was obliged to sell his types and return to country work in Pennsylvania. The person who bought them employed Keimer to use them, but a few years after he died. There remained now no other printer in Philadelphia, but the old Bradford; but he was rich and easy,
* The dissolution of the partnership was a year later, as appears by the following agreement, transcribed from the original in Franklin's handwriting. —Editor.
“Be it remembered, that Hugh Meredith and Benjamin Franklin have this day separated as partners, and will henceforth act each on his own account; and that the said Hugh Meredith, for a valuable consideration by him received from the said Benjamin Franklin, hath relinquished, and doth hereby relinquish, to the said Franklin, all claim, right, or property to or in the printing materials and stock heretofore jointly possessed by them in partnership; and to all debts due to them as partners, in the course of their business; which are all from henceforth the sole property of the said Benjamin Franklin. In witness whereof I have hereunto
set my hand, this 14th day of July, 1730. “HUGH MEREDITH.”
* See Vol. II. p. 253.
“It is little known, or set down to the commendation of Franklin, that, when he was young in business, and stood in need of sundry articles in the line of his profession as a printer, he had the ingenuity to make them for himself. In this way he founded letters of lead, engraved various printing ornaments, cut wood-cuts, made printer's ink, engraved copperplate vignettes, and made his plate-press.”—WATson’s ...Annals of Philadelphia, p. 513.
Mr. Watson relates another anecdote. He says, that the “yellow willow tree,” now so common throughout the country, was first introduced into America by Franklin. A wicker basket, made of willow, in which some foreign article had been imported, he saw sprouting in a ditch, and directed some of the twigs to be planted. They took root, and from these shoots are supposed to have sprung all the yellow willows, which have grown on this side of the Atlantic.
Chaptal ascribes to Franklin, also, the introduction of the agricultural use of plaster of Paris into the United States. “As this celebrated philosopher,” says he, “wished that the effects of this manure should strike the gaze of all cultivators, he wrote in great letters, formed by the use of the ground plaster, in a field of clover lying upon the great road, “This has been plastered.” The prodigious vegetation, which was developed in the plastered portion, led him to adopt this method. Volumes upon the excellency of plaster would not have produced so speedy a revolution. From that period the Americans have imported great quantities of plaster of Paris.” — ChaptAL's Agricultural Chemistry, Boston edition, p. 73. –Editor.