Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 27

into measures that I have
been from time to time engaged in promoting; and, as the chief ends of
conversation are to _inform_ or to be _informed_, to _please_ or to
_persuade_, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their
power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails
to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat everyone of
those purposes for which speech was given to us, to wit, giving or
receiving information or pleasure. For, if you would inform, a
positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may
provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention. If you wish
information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at
the same time express yourself as firmly fix'd in your present
opinions, modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will
probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error. And by
such a manner, you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in _pleasing_
your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you desire.
Pope[22] says, judiciously:

_"Men should be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown propos'd as things forgot;"_

farther recommending to us

"To speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence."

And he might have coupled with this line that
which he has coupled with another, I think,
less properly,

"For want of modesty is want of sense."

If you ask, Why less properly? I must repeat the lines,

"Immodest words admit of no defense,
For want of modesty is want of sense."

Now, is not _want of sense_ (where a man is so unfortunate as to want
it) some apology for his _want of modesty_? and would not the lines
stand more justly thus?

"Immodest words admit _but_ this defense,
That want of modesty is want of sense."

This, however, I should submit to better judgments.

[21] Socrates confuted his opponents in argument by
asking questions so skillfully devised that the answers
would confirm the questioner's position or show the
error of the opponent.

[22] Alexander Pope (1688-1744), the greatest English
poet of the first half of the eighteenth century.

My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a newspaper. It was
the second that appeared in America,[23] and was called the New England
Courant. The only one before it was the Boston News-Letter. I remember
his being dissuaded by some of his friends from

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Text Comparison with Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin; Written by Himself. [Vol. 2 of 2] With his Most Interesting Essays, Letters, and Miscellaneous Writings; Familiar, Moral, Political, Economical, and Philosophical, Selected with Care from All His Published Productions, and Comprising Whatever Is Most Entertaining and Valuable to the General Reader

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42 On Luxury, Idleness, and Industry 45 On Truth and Falsehood 50 Necessary Hints to those that would be Rich 53 The Way to make Money plenty in every Man's Pocket 54 The Handsome and Deformed Leg 55 On Human Vanity 58 On Smuggling, and its various Species 62 Remarks concerning the Savages of North America 66 On Freedom of Speech and the Press 71 On the Price of Corn and the Management of the Poor 82 Singular Custom among the Americans, entitled Whitewashing .
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And in philosophy how small our progress! Alas! art is long and life is short! My friends would comfort me with the idea of a name they say I shall leave behind me; and they tell me I have lived long enough to nature and to glory.
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They ought to be repressed; but to whom dare we commit the care of doing it? An evil magistrate, intrusted with power to _punish for words_, would be armed with a weapon the most destructive and terrible.
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But if, when the husband rises in the morning, he should.
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It is the exemption from punishment, and not its moderation which is the cause of crime.
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Two more are to be built, one on each side of this, at about fifteen miles' distance.
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My duty to mother, love to the children, and to Miss Betsey and Gracey, &c.
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of subsistence for man.
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Devils never treat one another in this cruel manner; they have more sense, and more of what men (vainly) call humanity.
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" * * * * * "_Dr.
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not appear to me intended for a grammar to teach the language.
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Everything of yours gives me pleasure.
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They have a right to sit _where_ they please, of which, perhaps, they have made too much use by shifting too often.
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Do you not remember the story you told me of the Scotch sergeant who met with a party of forty American soldiers, and, though alone, disarmed them all and brought them in prisoners? a story almost as improbable as that of an Irishman, who pretended to have alone taken and brought in five of the enemy by _surrounding_ them.
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Wallis and Mr.
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in the plate_, forming a long and sharp cone.
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* * * * * _Alexander Small, London.
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* * * * _Peter Franklin, Newport, Rhode Island.