Benjamin Franklin Representative selections, with introduction, bibliograpy, and notes

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 78

papers, _The
Guardian_, _Art of Thinking_ [Du Port Royal], _The Tale of a Tub_, and
the writings of Tillotson.[i-395] After reading most probably in these,
and, as we are told, in Tryon's _Way to Health_, Xenophon's
_Memorabilia_, digests of some of Boyle's lectures, Anthony Collins,
Locke, and Shaftesbury, Franklin became in his Calvinist religion a
"real doubter."[i-396] He became at the age of sixteen, as a result of
reading Boyle's Lectures,[i-397] a "thorough Deist."[i-398] We cannot be
certain of the Lectures read by Franklin, but we may observe Bentley's
_Folly of Atheism_ (1692) and Derham's _Physico-Theology_ (1711-1712),
which are representative of the series provided for by Boyle. Like
Mather's _The Christian Philosopher_ (1721)[i-399] they both employ
science and rationalism to reinforce (never as equivalent to or
substitute for) scriptural theology. Fed by Newtonian physics, Bentley
discovers in gravity "the great basis of all mechanism," the "immediate
_fiat_ and finger of God, and the executions of the divine law."[i-400]
Gravity, "the powerful cement which holds together this magnificent
structure of the world,"[i-401] is the result of the Deity "who _always
acts geometrically_." Borrowing from Cockburne, Ray, Bentley, and
Fenelon, Derham offers likewise to prove the existence and operations of
the Workman from his Work.[i-402]

It is unlikely that Boyle's Lectures (characterized by orthodox
rationalism, augmented by Newtonianism) would alone have precipitated in
Franklin a "thorough deism." Not improbably Locke, Shaftesbury, and
Anthony Collins (whom Franklin mentions reading) were most militant in
overthrowing his inherited bibliolatry. Although he does not say exactly
which of Collins's works he read, Collins's rationale is repeated
clearly enough in any one of his pieces. Warring against "crack-brain'd
Enthusiasts," the "prodigious Ignorance" and "Impositions of Priests,"
against defective scriptural texts, Collins defends "our natural
Notions" against the authoritarianism of priests. Vilifying the
authority of the surplice, he apotheosizes the authority of
reason.[i-403] He intensifies the English tradition of
every-man-his-own-priest, and exclaims "How uncertain Tradition
is!"[i-404] From this militant friend of John Locke, Franklin was
doubtless impregnated with an _odium theologicum_ and an exalted idea of
the sanctity of Reason.

Having read _An Essay Concerning Human Understanding_,[i-405] Franklin
may have remembered that Locke there observed, "Nothing that is contrary
to, and inconsistent with, the clear and self-evident dictates of
reason, has a right to be urged or assented to as a matter of faith,
wherein reason hath nothing to do."[i-406] Like Collins, Locke urged a
deistic rationale:

Since then the precepts of Natural Religion are plain, and
very intelligible to all mankind, and seldom to come to be
controverted; and other revealed truths, which are conveyed
to us

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Text Comparison with Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia in America

Page 1
_Muschenbroek_'s wonderful bottle.
Page 6
B.
Page 8
We had for some time been of opinion, that the electrical fire was not created by friction, but collected, being really an element diffus'd among, and attracted by other matter, particularly by water and metals.
Page 10
_ We suppose it was _driven off_, and not brought on thro' that wire; and that the machine and man, _&c.
Page 13
12.
Page 15
remain in the first bottle.
Page 18
When it is well charg'd it begins to move; the bullet nearest to a pillar moves towards the thimble on that pillar, and passing by electrifies it and then pushes itself from it; the succeeding bullet, which communicates with the other surface of the glass, more strongly attracts that thimble on account of its being before electrified by the other bullet; and thus the wheel encreases its motion till it comes to such a height as that the resistance of the air regulates it.
Page 23
If the particles of water bring with them portions of _both sorts_ of fire, the repulsions of the particles of air is still more strengthened and increased, and the triangles farther enlarged.
Page 25
The electrified particles of the first cloud close when they lose their fire; the particles of the other cloud close in receiving it: in both, they have thereby an opportunity of coalescing into drops.
Page 33
So the portion of atmosphere included in H, A, B, I, has the line A, B, for its basis.
Page 36
The horizontal motion of the scales over the floor, may represent the motion of the clouds over the earth; and the erect iron punch, a hill or high building; and then we see how electrified clouds passing over hills or high buildings at too great a height to strike, may be attracted lower till within their striking distance.
Page 41
27.
Page 42
And yet the bottle by this means is charged![9] And therefore the fire that thus leaves.
Page 44
more of this electrical fluid than other common matter: That when it is blown, as it cools, and the particles of common fire leave it, its pores become a vacuum: That the component parts of glass are extremely small and fine, I guess from its never showing a rough face when it breaks, but always a polish; and from the smallness of its particles I suppose the pores between them must be exceeding small, which is the reason that Aqua-fortis, nor any other menstruum we have, can enter to separate them and dissolve the substance; nor is any fluid we know of, fine enough to enter, except common fire, and the electrical fluid.
Page 45
As this charg'd part of the globe comes round to the cushion again, the outer surface delivers its overplus fire into the cushion, the opposite inner surface receiving at the same time an equal quantity from the.
Page 46
Every electrician knows that a globe wet within will afford little or no fire, but the reason has not before been attempted to be given, that I know of.
Page 47
36.
Page 48
And besides, when the globe is filled with cinnamon, or other non-electric, no electrical fluid can be obtain'd from its outer surface, for the reason before-mentioned.
Page 50
If the phial really exploded at both ends, and discharged fire from both coating and wire, the balls would be _more_ electrified and recede _farther_: for none of the fire can escape, the wax handle preventing.
Page 51
16.