Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 91

of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the
endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have
been if I had not attempted it; as those who aim at perfect writing by
imitating the engraved copies, tho' they never reach the wish'd-for
excellence of those copies, their hand is mended by the endeavour, and
is tolerable while it continues fair and legible.

It may be well my posterity should be informed that to this little
artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor ow'd the constant
felicity of his life, down to his 79th year, in which this is written.
What reverses may attend the remainder is in the hand of Providence;
but, if they arrive, the reflection on past happiness enjoy'd ought to
help his bearing them with more resignation. To Temperance he ascribes
his long-continued health, and what is still left to him of a good
constitution; to Industry and Frugality, the early easiness of his
circumstances and acquisition of his fortune, with all that knowledge
that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and obtained for him some
degree of reputation among the learned; to Sincerity and Justice, the
confidence of his country, and the honorable employs it conferred upon
him; and to the joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues,[71]
even in the imperfect state he was able to acquire them, all that
evenness of temper, and that cheerfulness in conversation, which makes
his company still sought for, and agreeable even to his younger
acquaintance. I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may
follow the example and reap the benefit.

[71] While there can be no question that Franklin's moral
improvement and happiness were due to the practice of
these virtues, yet most people will agree that we shall
have to go back of his plan for the impelling motive to
a virtuous life. Franklin's own suggestion that the
scheme smacks of "foppery in morals" seems justified.
Woodrow Wilson well puts it: "Men do not take fire from
such thoughts, unless something deeper, which is missing
here, shine through them. What may have seemed to the
eighteenth century a system of morals seems to us
nothing more vital than a collection of the precepts of
good sense and sound conduct. What redeems

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Page 8
Accordingly, in the evening, when the workmen were gone, I assembled a number of my play-fellows, and working with them diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, we brought them all away and built our little wharff.
Page 33
We therefore had many disputations.
Page 44
My lodging in Little Britain being too remote, I found another in Duke-street, opposite to the Romish Chapel.
Page 45
She had lived many years in that garret, being permitted to remain there gratis by successive Catholic tenants of the house below, as they deemed it a blessing to have her there.
Page 46
At Watts's printing-house I contracted an acquaintance with an ingenious young man, one Wygate, who, having wealthy relations, had been better educated than most printers; was a tolerable Latinist, spoke French, and lov'd reading.
Page 54
Revelation had indeed no weight with me, as such; but I entertain'd an opinion that, though certain actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them, yet probably these actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered.
Page 67
"PARIS, January 31, 1783.
Page 68
In youth, therefore, the turn is given; in youth the education even of the next generation is given; in youth the private and public character is determined; and the term of life extending but from youth to age, life ought to begin well from youth, and more especially before we take our party as to our principal objects.
Page 69
Such a conduct is easy for those who make virtue and themselves in countenance by examples of other truly great men, of whom patience is so often the characteristic.
Page 70
If this correspondent had known the nature of your reputation as well as I do, he would have said, Your former writings and measures would secure attention to your Biography, and Art of Virtue; and your Biography and Art of Virtue, in return, would secure attention to them.
Page 74
This library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study, for which I set apart an hour or two each day, and thus repair'd in some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me.
Page 83
Examination I done to-day? { 9 } of the day.
Page 98
Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher.
Page 103
my being established in Pennsylvania.
Page 112
The office of justice of the peace I try'd a little, by attending a few courts, and sitting on the bench to hear causes; but finding that.
Page 132
But I ventur'd only to say, "To be sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne, with these fine troops, so well provided with artillery, that place not yet compleatly fortified, and as we hear with no very strong garrison, can probably make but a short resistance.
Page 134
The secretary's papers, with all the general's orders, instructions, and correspondence, falling into the enemy's hands, they selected and translated into French a number of the articles, which they printed, to prove the hostile intentions of the British court before the declaration of war.
Page 140
The sermon I heard was to the latter, who came in and.
Page 149
His answer was, "I have given out that she is to sail on Saturday next; but I may let you know, entre nous, that if you are there by Monday morning, you will be in time, but do not delay longer.
Page 160
1729 Becomes proprietor and editor of the "Pennsylvania Gazette"; prints, anonymously, "Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency"; opens a stationer's shop.