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sides of which suffered some of the slush at every jolt on the pavement to shake out and fall; sometimes to the annoyance of foot passengers. The reason given for not sweeping the dusty streets was, that the- dust would fly into the windows of shops and houses. An accidental occurrence had instructed me how much sweeping might be done in a little time; I found at my door in Craven Street, one morning, a poor woman sweeping my pavement with a birch broom; she appeared very pale and feeble, as just come out of a fit of sickness. I asked who employed her to sweep there; she said, "Nobody; but I am poor and in distress, and I sweeps before gentlefolkeses doors, and hopes they will give me something." I bid her sweep the whole street clean, and I would give her a shilling; this was at 9 o'clock; at noon she came for the shilling. From the slowness I saw at first in her working, I could scarce believe that the work was done so soon, and sent my servant to examine it, who reported that the whole street was swept perfectly clean, and all the dust placed in the gutter which was in the middle; and the next rain washed it quite away, so that the pavement and even the kennel were perfectly clean. I then judged that if that feeble woman could sweep such a street in three hours, a strong active man might have done it in half the time. And here let me remark the convenience of having but one gutter in such a narrow street running down its middle, instead of two, one on each side near the footway. For where all the rain that falls on a street runs from the sides and meets in the middle, it forms there a current strong enough to wash away all the mud it meets with: but when divided into two channels, it is often too weak to cleanse either, and only makes the mud it finds more fluid, so that the wheels of carriages, and feet of horses throw and dash it upon the foot pavement, (which is thereby rendered foul and slippery,) and sometimes splash it upon those who are walking. IViy proposal communicated to the doctor, was as follows:
"For the more effectually cleaning and keeping clean the streets of London and Westminster, it is proposed, that the several watchmen be contracted with to have the dust swept up in dry seasons, and the mud raked up at other times, each in the several streets and lanes of his round: that they be furnished with brooms and other proper instruments for these purposes, to be kept at their respective stands, ready to furnish the poor people they may employ in the service.
"That in the dry summer months the dust be all swept up into heaps at proper distances, before the shops and windows of houses are usually opened; when scavengers with close covered carts shall also carry it all away.
"That the mud, when raked up, be not left in heaps to be spread abroad again by the wheels of carriages and trampling of horses; but that the scavengers be provided with bodies of carts, not placed high upon wheels, but low upon sliders, with lattice bottoms, which being covered with straw, will retain the mud thrown into them, and permit the water to drain from it; whereby it will become much lighter, water making the greatest part of the weight. These bodies of carts to be placed at convenient distances, and the mud brought to them in wheelbarrows; they remaining where placed till the mud is drained, and then horses brought to draw them away."
I have since had doubts of the practicability of the latter part of this proposal, in all places, on account of the narrowness of some streets, and the difficulty of placing the draining sleds so as not to encumber too much the passage: but I am still of opinion that the former, requiring the dust to be swept up and carried away before the shops are open, is very practicable in the summer, when the days are long: for in walking through the Strand and Fleet Street, one morning at 7 o'clock, I observed there was not one shop open, though it had been daylight and the sun up above. three hours: the inhabitants of London, choosing voluntarily to live much by candle-light, and sleep by sun-shine; and yet often complain, a little absurdly, of the duty on candles, and the high price of tallow.
Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding or relating: but when they consider that though dust blown into the eyes of a single person, or into a single shop in a windy day, is but of small importance, yet the great number of the instances in a populous city, and its frequent repetition, gives it weight and consequence; perhaps they will not censure very severely those who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature. Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day. Thus, if you teach a poor young man to shave himself, and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. This sum may be soon spent, the regret only remaining of having foolishly consumed it: but in the other case he escapes the frequent vexation of waiting for barbers, and of their sometimes dirty fingers, offensive breaths, and dull razors: he shaves when most convenient to him, and enjoys daily the pleasure of its being done with a good instrument. With these sentiments I have hazarded the few preceding pages, hoping they may afford hints which some time or other may be useful to a city I love, (having lived many years in it very happily) and perhaps to some of our towns in America.
Having been some time employed by the Post-Master-General of America as his 'comptroller in regulating the several offices, and bringing the officers to account, I was upon his death, in 1753, appointed jointly with Mr. William Hu to
succeed him; by a commission from the Post-Master-General in England. The American office had hitherto never paid any-thing to that of Britain : we were to have 600l. a year between us, if we could make that sum out of the profits of the office. To do this a variety of improvements were necessary; some of these were inevitably at first expensive; so that in the first four years the office became above 900l. in debt to us. But it soon after began to repay us; and before I was displaced by a freak of the ministers, (of which I shall speak hereafter,) we had brought it to yield three times as much clear revenue to the crown as the Post-Office of Ireland. Since , that imprudent transaction, they have received from it—Not one farthing!
The business of the Post Office occasioned my taking a journey this year to New England, where the College of Cambridge, of their own motion, presented me with the degree of Master of Arts. Yale College in Connecticut had before made me a similar compliment. Thus without studying in any College I came to partake of their honors. They were conferred in consideration of my improvements and discoveries in the electric branch of Natural Philosophy.
In 1754, war with France being again apprehended, a congress of commissioners from the different colonies was by an order of the lords of trade to be assembled at Albany; there to confer with the chiefs of the six nations, concerning the means of defending both their country and ours. Governor Hamilton having received this order, acquainted the house with it, requesting they would furnish proper presents for the Indians, to be given on this occasion; and naming the speaker, (Mr. Norris) and myself to join Mr. John Penn, and Mr. Secretary Peters, as commissioners to act for Pennsylvania. The house approved the nomination, and provided the goods for the presents, though they did not much like treating out of the province; and we met the other commissioners at Albany about the middle of June. In our way thither I projected and drew up a plan for the union of all the colonies under one government, so far as might be necessary for defence, and other important general purposes. As we passed through New-York, I had there shewn my project to Mr. James Alexander and Mr. Kennedy, two gentlemen of great knowledge in public affairs, and being fortified by their approbation, I ventured to lay it before the congress. It then appeared that several of the commissioners had formed plans of the same kind. A previous question was first taken, whether an union should be established, which passed in the affirmative, unanimously. A committee was then appointed, one member from each colony, to consider the several plans and report. Mine happened to be preferred, and with a few amendments was accordingly reported. By this plan the general government was to be administered by a President General, appointed and supported by the crown; and a grand council to be chosen by the representatives of the people of the several colonies met in their respective assemblies. The debates upon it in congress went on daily hand in hand with the Indian business. Many objections and difficulties were started, but at length they were all overcome, and the plan was unanimously agreed to, and copies ordered to be transmitted to the board of trade and to the assemblies of the several provinces. Its fate was singular: the assemblies did not adopt it as they all thought there was too much prerogative in it; and in England it was judged to have too much of the democratic. The board of trade did not approve of it; nor recommend it for the approbation of his Majesty: but another scheme was formed, supposed to answer the same purpose better, whereby the Governors of the provinces with some members of their respective councils were to meet and order the raising of troops, building of forts, &c. and to draw on the treasury of Great Britain for the expence, which was afterwards to be refunded by an act of parliament laying a tax on America. My plan with my reasons in support of it, is to be found among my political papers that were printed. Being the winter following in Boston, I had much conversation with Governor Shirley upon both the plans. Part of what passed between us on this occasion may also be seen among those papers. The different and contrary reasons of dislike to my plan, makes me suspect that it was really the true medium, and I am still of opinion it would have been happy for both sides if it had been adopted. The colonies so united would have been sufficiently strong to have defended themselves: there would then have been no need of troops from England, of course the subsequent pretext for taxing America; and the bloody contest it occasioned, would have been avoided. But such mistakes are not new; history is full of the errors of states and princes.
"Look round the habitable world, how few
Those who govern having much business on their hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but forced by the occasion.
The Governor of Pennsylvania, in sending it down to the assembly, expressed his
approbation of the plan "as appearing to him to be drawn up with great clearness
and strength of judgment, and therefore recommended it as well worthy their closest
and most serious attention." The house, however, by the management of a certain
Vol. I. O member, took it up when I happened to be absent, (which I thought not very fair,) and reprobated it without paying any attention to it at all; to my no small mortification.
In my journey to Boston this year, I met at New-York with our new Governor, Mr. Morris, just arrived there from England, with whom I had been before intimately acquainted. He brought a commission to supersede Mr. Hamilton, who, tired with the disputes his proprietary instructions subjected him to, had resigned. Mr. Morris asked me if I thought he must expect as uncomfortable an administration. I said, " No, you may on the contrary have a very comfortable one, if you will only take care not to enter into any dispute with the assembly:" "my dear friend," said he pleasantly, "how can you advise my avoiding disputes? You know I love disputing, it is one of my greatest pleasures; however, to shew the regard I have for your counsel, I promise you I will, if possible, avoid them." He had some reason for loving to dispute, being eloquent, an acute sophister, and therefore generally successful in argumentative conversation. He had been brought up to it from a boy, his father, as I have heard, accustoming his children to dispute with one another for his diversion, while sitting at table after dinner; but I think the practice was not wise, for in the course of my observation those disputing, contradicting and confuting people, are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get good-will, which would be of more use to them. We parted, he going to Philadelphia, and I to Boston. In returning I met at New-York with the votes of the assembly of Pennsylvania, by which it appeared, that notwithstanding his promise to me, he and the house were already in high contention; and it was a continual battle between them, as long as he retained the government. I had my share of it, for as soon as I got back to my seat in the assembly, I was put on every committee for answering his speeches and messages, and by the committees always desired to make the draughts. Our answers as well as his messages, were often tart, and sometimes indecently abusive: and as he knew I wrote for the assembly, one might have imagined that when we met we could hardly avoid cutting throats. But he was so good-natured a man, that no personal difference between him and me, was occasioned by the contest, and we often dined together. One afternoon, in the height of this public quarrel, we met in the street; "Franklin," said he, " you must go home with me and spend the evening, I am to have some company that you will like;" and taking me by the arm led me to his house. In gay conversation over our wine, after supper, he told us jokingly that he much admired the idea of Sancho Panza, who, when it was proposed to give him a government, requested it