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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 82

that is, it meets with nothing to
hinder its Fall, but at the same Time it is necessitated to fall, and
has no Power or Liberty to remain suspended."[i-435] As a disciple of
Locke's psychology, Franklin reflected his concept of the _tabula rasa_
in describing an infant's mind which "is as if it were not." "All our
Ideas are first admitted by the Senses and imprinted on the Brain,
increasing in Number by Observation and Experience; there they become
the Subjects of the Soul's Action."

In the _Dissertation_ one can discover the extent to which Franklin had
absorbed (if not from Newton's own works, then from his popularizers and
intellectual sons such as Pemberton, Franklin's friend) several of the
essential tenets of Newtonianism. Here we see his belief in a universe
motivated by immutable natural laws comprising a sublimely harmonious
system reflecting a Wise Geometrician; a world in which man desires to
affect a corresponding inner heaven. Enraptured by the order of the
natural laws of Newtonianism, and like a Shaftesbury searching for a
demonstrable inner harmony, Franklin (carrying his a priorism to logical
absurdity) was unable to reconcile free will with Omniscience,
Omnipotence, and Goodness. (In how far was this partly the result of his
having been steeped in Calvinism's doctrine of Election?)

The _Dissertation_ is as appreciative of Newton's contribution to
physics and thought as Thomson's[i-436] _To the Memory of Sir Isaac
Newton_. Not unlike Franklin's framework is Shaftesbury's thought in
_An Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit_.[i-437] Since Franklin
acknowledged his reading of Shaftesbury and since as late as 1730 he
borrowed heavily from the _Characteristics_, it seems probable that
Shaftesbury lent Franklin in this case some sanction for his only
metaphysical venture.[i-438]

As one result of his printing _A Dissertation_ he made the acquaintance
of Lyons, author of _The Infallibility of Human Judgement_[i-439] who
introduced him to Mandeville[i-440] and Dr. Henry Pemberton, who in
turn "Promis'd to give me an opportunity, some time or other, of seeing
Sir Isaac Newton, _of which I was extreamly desirous_; but this never
happened [the italics are the editors']."[i-441] Dr. Pemberton,
physician and mathematician, met Newton in 1722, and during the time
Franklin enjoyed his friendship was helping Newton to prepare the third
edition of the _Principia_. As a result of his aiding Newton "to
discover and understand his writings,"[i-442] Pemberton in 1728
published _A View of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy_. It is obvious that
Franklin could have discovered few men with a more concentrated and
enthusiastic knowledge of Newtonianism than that possessed by Dr.
Pemberton. As we have already noted, Franklin undoubtedly derived his
appreciation of Newtonian speculation not from grubbing in

Last Page Next Page

Text Comparison with Franklin's Autobiography (Eclectic English Classics)

Page 16
He observed that, though I had the advantage of my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I owed to the printing house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method, and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances.
Page 30
Keimer's printing house, I found, consisted of an old shattered press and one small, worn-out font of English,[46] which he was then using himself, composing an elegy on Aquila Rose, before mentioned, an ingenious young man of excellent character, much respected in the town, clerk of the Assembly, and a pretty poet.
Page 31
street.
Page 53
Keimer had got a better house, a shop well supplied with stationery, plenty of new types, a number of hands, though none good, and seemed to have a great deal of business.
Page 56
Keimer, being in the street, looked up and saw me, and called out to me in a loud voice and angry tone to mind my business, adding some reproachful words that nettled me the more for their publicity, all the neighbors, who were looking out on the same occasion, being witnesses how I was treated.
Page 61
He became afterward a merchant of great note, and one of our provincial judges.
Page 66
The utility of this currency became by time and experience so evident as never afterward to be much disputed; so that it grew soon to fifty-five thousand pounds, and in 1739 to eighty thousand pounds, since which it rose during war to upward of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds, trade, building, and inhabitants all the while increasing, though I now think there are limits, beyond which the quantity may be hurtful.
Page 72
She assisted me cheerfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the paper makers, etc.
Page 74
Being diligent in reading the holy Scriptures.
Page 89
"I at present think that whoever attempts this aright, and is well qualified, cannot fail of pleasing God, and of meeting with success.
Page 96
The English version is given by Bigelow in his edition of the Autobiography: "He [Pythagoras, who lived in the sixth century B.
Page 97
201.
Page 101
Whitefield with the idea of building an orphan house[128] there, in which they might be supported and educated.
Page 123
A committee was then appointed, one member from each colony, to consider the several plans and report.
Page 139
The bill expressed that all estates, real and personal, were to be taxed, those of the proprietaries not excepted.
Page 140
It seems they were either deceived in themselves or deceived the Parliament; but common sense, aided by present danger, will sometimes be too strong for whimsical opinions.
Page 148
Kinnersley, an ingenious neighbor, who, being out of business, I encouraged to undertake showing the experiments for money, and drew up for him two lectures, in which the experiments were ranged in such order, and accompanied with such explanations in such method, as that the foregoing should assist in comprehending the following.
Page 150
After dinner, when the company, as was customary at that time, were engaged in drinking, he took me aside into another room, and acquainted me that he had been advised by his friends in England to cultivate a friendship with me, as one who was capable of giving him the best advice, and of contributing most effectually to the making his administration easy; that he therefore desired of all things to have a good understanding with me, and he begged me to be assured of his readiness on all occasions to render me every service that might be in his power.
Page 152
We met and discussed the business.
Page 169
He means that perhaps the cheapness is apparent only, and not real; or, the bargain, by straitening thee in thy business, may do thee more harm than good.