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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, barthened 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 failed entirely in arithmetic. At ten years old, I was taken to help my father in his business of a tallow-chandler and soap-boiler, a business to which he was not bred, but had assumed on his arrival in New England, because he found that his dying trade, being in little request, would not maintain his family. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting the wick for the candles, filling the molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of errands, &c.
I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination to go to sea, but my father declared against it; but residing near the water, I was much in it and on it. I learnt to swim well, and to manage boats; and when embarked with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions, I was generally the leader among the boys, and sometimes led them into scrapes, of which I will mention an instance, as it shews an early projecting public spirit, though not then justly conducted.
There was a salt marsh which bounded part of the millpond, on the edge of which at high water we used to stand to fish for minnows; by much trampling we had made it a mere quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharf there for us to stand upon, and I shewed my comrades a large heap of stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would very well suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the
evening, when the workmen were gone home, I assembled a number of my playfellows, and we worked diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, till we had brought them all to make oar little wharf. The next morning the workmen were surprised, on missing the stones which formed our wharf; inquiry was made after the authors of this transfer, we were discovered, complained of, and corrected by our fathers; and though I demonstrated the utility of our work, mine convinced me that, that which was not truly honest could not be truly useful.
I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was. He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and very strong: he could draw prettily, was a little skilled in music; his voice was sonorous and agreeable, so that wlien he played on his violin and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and on occasion was very handy with other tradesmen's tools; but his great excellence was his sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate, and the strictness of his circumstances kceping him close to his trade: but I remember well bis being frequently visited by leading men, who consulted him for bis opinion in public affairs, and those of the church he belonged to, and who shewed great respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs, when any difficulty occurred; and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to bave, as often as hic could!, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent, in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what rclated to the rictuals on the table, whether it was well
or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those inatters, as to be quite indifferent as to what kind of food was set before me. Indeed I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner of what dishes it consisted. This has been a great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate because better instructed tastes and appctites.
My mother bad likewise an excellent constitution: sho suckled all her ten children. I never knew cither my father or mother to have any sickness, but that of which they died he at 89 and she at 85 years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marblc over their grave, with this inscription:
lie here interred.
By constant labor and honest industry,
maintained a large family comfortably,
And distrust not Providence.
Their youngest son,
Places this stone.
By my rambling digressions, I perceive myself to be grown old. I used to write more methodically. But one does
not dress for private company as for a public ball. Perhaps it is only negligence.
To return: I continued thus employed in my father's business for two years, that is till I was twelve years old; and my brother John, who was bred to that business, having left my father, married and set up for himself at Rhode Island, there was every appearance that I was destined to supply his place, and become a tallow-chandler. But my dislike to the trade continuing, my father had apprehensions, that if he did not put me to one more agreeable, I should break loose and go to sea, as my brother Josiah had done, to his great vexation. In consequence he took me to walk with him, and see joiners, bricklayers, tūrners, braziers, &c. at their work, that he might observe my inclination, and endeavor to fix it on some trade or profession that would keep me on land. It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has been often usesul to me to have learnt so much by it as to be able to do some trifling jobs in the house, when a workman was not at hand, and to construct little machines for my experiments, at the moment when the intention of making them was warm in my mind. My father determined at last for the cutler's trade, and placed me for some days on trial with Samuel, son to my uncle Benjamin, who was bred to that trade in London, and had just established himself in Boston. But the sum he exacted as a fee for my apprenticeship displeased my father, and I was taken home again. From my infancy I was passionately fond of reading, and all the money that came into my hands was laid
out in the purchasing of books. I was very fond of voyages. - My first acquisition was Bunyan's works in separate little volumes. I afterwards sold them to enable me to buy R. Bur. ton's Historical Collections; they were small chapmen's books, and cheap, 40 volumes in all. My father's little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic divinity, most of which I read. I have often regretted, that at a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books bad not fallen into my way, since it was resolved I should not be bred to divini
ty; there was anong them Plutarch's lives, which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage. There was also a book of De Foe's, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Mather's, called an Essay to do good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life.
This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a printer though he had already one son (James) of that profession. In 1717 my brother James returned from England with a press and letters to set up his business in Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father, but still liad an hankering for the sea. To prevent the apprehendcd effect of such an inclination, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother. I stuod out some time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the indentures when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to serve as an apprentice till I was twenty-one years of age, only I was to be allowed journeyman's wages during the last year. In a little time I made a great progress in the business, and became a useful hand to my brother. I now had access to better books. An acquaintance with the apprentices of booksellers, enabled me sometimes to borrow a small one, which I was careful to return soon and clean. Often I sat up in my chamber the greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening to be returned in the morning, lest it should be found missing. After some time a merchant, an ingenious sensible man, Mr. Matthew Adams, who had a pretty collection of books, frequented our printing office, took notice of me, and invited me to see his library, and very kindly proposed to lend me such books as I chose to read. I now took a strong inclination for poetry, and wrote some little pieces; my brother supposing it might turn to account, encouraged me, and induced me to compose two occasional ballads. One was called the Lighthouse tragedy, and contained an account of the shipwreck of captain Worthilake, with his two daughters: the other was a sailor's song, on the taking of the famous Teach (or Blackbeard) the pirate. They were wretched stuff, in street ballad