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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 connection 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 in 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, &c. they were useful to themselves, and afforded 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 my 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, sp 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, Col. 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 Post-master, 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.
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 chuse 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 junto, representing these irregularities, but insisting more particularly on the inequality of this six-shilling tax of the constables, 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 an 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 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, firehooks, 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 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 multitude 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, but sufficient sums were soon received to procure the ground, and erect the building, which was 100 feet long and 70 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 not being 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 lately been begun, but instead of being made with hardy industrious husbandmen accustomed to labour, the only people fit for such an enterprize, it was with families of broken shop-keepers, and other insolvent debtors j many of indolent and idle habits, taken outof 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 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 fortunately 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 me 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, journals, &c.) 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 honest man; and methinks my testimony in his favor ought to have the more weight, as we had no religious connexion. He used indeed sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard. Ours was a mere civil friendship, sincere on both sides, and lasted to his death. The following instance will show the terms on which we stood. Upon one of his arrivals from England at Boston, he wrote to me that he should come soon to Philadelphia, but knew not where he could lodge when there, as he understood his old friend and host, Mr. Benezet, was removed to German-Town. My answer was, you know my house; if you can make shift with its scanty accommodations you will be most heartily welcome. He replied, that if I made that kind offer for Christ's sake, I should not miss of a reward. And I returned, "don't let me be mistaken; it was not for Christ's sake, but for your sake." One of our common acquaintance jocosely remarked, that knowing it to be the custom of the saints, when they received any favour to shift the burthen of the obligation from off their own shoulders, and place it in heaven, I had contrived to fix it on earth.
The last time I saw Mr. Whitefield, was in London, when he consulted me about his orphan-house concern, and his purpose of appropriating it to the establishment of a college.