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posterity will perhaps be desirous of learning the means, which I employed, and which, thanks to Providence, so well succeeded with me. They may also deem them fit to be imitated, should any of them find themselves in similar circumstances. This good fortune, when I reflect on it, which is frequently the case, has induced me sometimes to say, that if it were left to my choice, I should have no objection to go over the same life from its beginning to the end: requesting only the advantage authors have of correcting in a second edition the faults of the first. So would I also wish to change some incidents of it, for others more favorable. Notwithstanding, if this condition was denied, I should still accept the offer of re-commencing the same life. But as this repetition is not to be expected, that which resembles most living one's life over again, seems to be to recall all the circumstances of it; and to render this remembrance more durable, to record them in writing. In thus employing myself I shall yield to the inclination so natural to old men, of talking of themselves, and their own actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to those, who, from respect to my age, might conceive themselves obliged to listen to me, since they will be always free to read me or not. And lastly (I may as well confess it, as the denial of it would be believed by nobody) I shall perhaps not a little gratify my own vanity. Indeed, I never heard or saw the introductory words, "Without vanity I may say," &c. but some vain thing immediately followed. Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves, but I give it fair quarter, wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others who are within his sphere of action: and therefore in many cases it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.
And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I attribute the mentioned happiness of my past life to his divine providence, which led me to the means I used, and gave the success. My belief of this induces me to hope, though I must not presume, that the same goodness will still be exercised towards me in continuing that happiness, or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse which I may experience as others have done, the complexion of my future fortune being known to him only, in whose power it is to bless us, even in our afflictions.
Some notes, one of my uncles (who had the same curiosity in collecting family anecdotes) once put into my hands, furnished me with several particulars relative to our ancestors. From these notes I learnt that they lived in the same village, Ecton in Northamptonshire, on a freehold of aboutthirty acres, for at least three hundred years, and how much longer could not be ascertained.1
This small estate would not have sufficed for their maintenance without the business of a smith, which had continued in the family down to my uncle's time, the eldest son being always brought up to that employment: a custom which he and my father followed with regard to their eldest sons. When I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an account of their marriages and burials from the year 15.55 only, as the registers kept did not commence previous thereto. I however learnt from it, that I was the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back. My grandfather Thomas who was born in 1598 lived at Ecton, till he was too old to continue his business, when he retired to Banbury in Oxfordshire, to the house of his son John, with whom my father served an apprenticeship. There my uncle died and lies buried. We saw his grave-stone in 1758. His eldest son Thomas lived in the house at Ecton, and left it with the land to his only daughter, who with her husband, one Fisher of Wellingborough, sold it to Mr. Isted, now lord of the manor there. My grandfather had four sons, who grew up; viz. Thomas, John, Benjamin and Josiah. Being at a distance from my papers, I will give you what account I can of them from memory: and if my papers are not lost in my absence you will find among them many more particulars.
1 Perhaps from the time, when the name of Franklin, which before was the name of an order of people, was assumed by them for a surname, when others took surnames all over the kingdom.
As a proof that Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in England, see Judge Fortescue, De laudibus Legum Angliae, written about the year 1412, in which is the following passage, to show that good juries might easily be formed in any part of England.
"Regio etiam ilia, ita respersa refertaque est possessoribus terrarum et agrorum, quod in ea, villula tam parva reperiri non poterit, in qua non est miles, armiger, vel pater-familias, qualis ibidem Franklin vulgariter nuncupatur, magnis ditatus possessionibus, nec non libere tenentes et alii valecti plurimi, suis patrimoniis sufficients ad faciendum juratam, in forma praenotata."
"Moreover, the same countryMs so filled and replenished with landed menne, that therein so small a Thorpe cannot be found wherein dweleth not a knight, an esquire, or such a householder as is there commonly called a Franklin, enriched with great possessions; and also other freeholders and many yeomen able for their livelihoods to make a jury in form aforementioned."—(Old Translation.)
Chaucer too calls his Country Gentleman, a Franklin, and after describing his good housekeeping thus characterises him:
•* This worthy Franklin bore a purse of silk,
Thomas, my eldest uncle, was bred a smith under his father, but being ingenious and encouraged in learning (as all his brothers were) by an Esquire Palmer, then the principal inhabitant of that parish, he qualified himself for the bar, and became a considerable man in the county; was chief mover of all public-spirited enterprizes for the county or town of Northampton, as well as of his own village, of which many instances were related of him: and he was much taken notice of, and patronized by Lord Halifax. He died in 1702, the 6th of January; four years to a day before I was born. The recital which some elderly persons made to us of his character, I remember, struck you as something extraordinary, from its similarity with what you knew of me. "Had he died," said you, " four years later, on the same day, one might have supposed a transmigration." John, my next uncle, was bred a dyer, I believe of wool. Benjamin was bred a silk dyer, serving an apprenticeship in London. He was an ingenious man. I remember, when I was a boy, he came to my father's in Boston, and resided in the house with us for several years. There was always a particular affection between my father and him, and I was his godson. He lived to a great age. He left behind him two quarto volumes of manuscript, of his own poetry, consisting of fugitive pieces addressed to his friends. He had invented a short-hand, of his own, which he taught me, but not having practised it, I have now forgotten it. He was very pious, and an assiduous attendant at the sermons of the best preachers, which he reduced to writing according to his method, and had thus collected several volumes of them. He was also a good deal of a politician; too much so, perhaps, for his station. There fell lately into my hands in London, a collection he had made of all the principal political pamphlets relating to public affairs, from the year 1641 to 1717; many of the volumes are wanting, as appears by their numbering, but there still remain eight volumes in folio, and twenty in quarto and in octavo. A dealer in old books had met with them, and knowing me by name, having bought books of him, he brought them to me. It would appear that my uncle must have left them here, when he went to America, which was about fifty years ago. I found several of his notes in the margins. His grandson, Samuel Franklin, is still living in Boston.
Our humble family early embraced the reformed religion. Our forefathers continued Protestants through the reign of Mary, when they were sometimes in danger of persecution, on account of their zeal against popery. • They had an English Bible, and to conceal it, and place it in safety, it was fastened open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint stool. When my great grandfather wished to read it to his family, he placed the joint stool on his knees, and then turned over the leaves under the tapes. One of the children stood at the door to give notice if he saw the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual court. In that case the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when the Bible remained concealed under it as before. This anecdote I had from uncle Benjamin. The family continued all of the church of England, till about the end of Charles the Second's reign, when some of the ministers that had been outed for their non-conformity, holding conventicles in Northamptonshire, my uncle Benjamin and my father Josiah adhered to them, and so continued all their lives. The rest of the family remained with the Episcopal church.
My father married young, and carried his wife with three children to New-England about 16'82. The conventicles being at that time forbidden by law, and frequently disturbed in the meetings, some considerable men of his acquaintances, determined to go to that country, and he was prevailed with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy the exercise of their religion with freedom. By the same wife my father had four children more born there, and by a second, ten others: in all seventeen: of which I remember to have seen thirteen sitting together at his table; who all grew up to years of maturity and were married. I was the youngest son, and the youngest of all the children except two daughters. I was born in Boston, in New England.1 My mother, the second wife of my father, was Abiah Folgier, daughter of Peter Folgier, one of the first settlers of New England; of whom honorable mention is made by Cotton Mather in his ecclesiastical history of that country, entitled Magnalia Christi Americana, as "a godly and learned Englishman," if I remember the words rightly. I was informed he wrote several small occasional works, but only one of them was printed, which I remember to have seen several years since. It was written in 1675. It was in familiar verse, according to the taste of the times and people; and addressed to the government there. It asserts the liberty of conscience, in behalf of the Anabaptists, the Quakers, and other sectaries, that had been persecuted. He attributes to this persecution, the Indian wars, and other calamities that had befallen the country: regarding them as so many judgments of God to punish so heinous an offence, and exhorting the repeal of those laws, so contrary to charity. This piece appeared to me as written with manly freedom, and a pleasing simplicity. The six last lines I remember, but have forgotten the preceding ones of the stanza; the purport of them was, that his censures proceeded from good-will, and therefore he would be known to be the author.
1 January 17, 1706.
"Because to be a libeller" (said he)
"I hate it with my heart,
My name I do put here:
It is Peter Folgier."
My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades. I was put to the grammar-school at eight years of age ; my father intending to devote me, as the tythe of his sons, to the service of the church. My early readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read) and the opinion of all his friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his. My uncle Benjamin too approved of it, and proposed to give me his short-hand volumes of sermons, to set up with, if I would learn his short-hand. I continued however at the grammar-school, rather less than a year, though in that time I had risen gradually from the middle of the class of that year to be at the head of the same class, and was removed into the next class, whence I was to be placed in the third at the end of the year. But my father, burdened with a numerous family, was unable without inconvenience, to support the expense of a college education: considering moreover, as he said to one of his friends in my presence, the little encouragement that line of life afforded to those educated for it; he gave up his first intentions, took me from the grammar-school, and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a then famous man, Mr. George Brownwell. He was a skilful master, and successful in his profession, employing the mildest and most encouraging methods. Under him I learnt to write a good hand, pretty soon; but I failed entirely in arithmetic. At ten years old I was taken to help my father in his business, which was that of a tallow-chandler, and soap-boiler: a business to which he was not bred, but had assumed on his arrival at New-England, because he found that his dyeing trade, being in little request, would not maintain his family. Accordingly I was employed in cutting wick for the candles, filling the moulds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of errands, &c.
1 In the island of Nantucket.