Franklin's Autobiography (Eclectic English Classics)

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 19

reading Shaftesbury and Collins, become a real doubter in
many points of our religious doctrine, I found this method safest for
myself and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it.
Therefore I took a delight in it, practiced it continually, and grew
very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge,
into concessions the consequences of which they did not foresee,
entangling them in difficulties out of which they could not extricate
themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither myself nor my
cause always deserved.

I continued this method some few years, but gradually left it,
retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest
diffidence; never using, when I advanced anything that may possibly be
disputed, the words "certainly," "undoubtedly," or any others that
give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather saying, "I
conceive" or "apprehend" a thing to be so and so; "it appears to me,"
or "I should think it so or so," for such and such reasons; or "I
imagine it to be so;" or "it is so, if I am not mistaken." This habit,
I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion
to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men 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 every one 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 fixed 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 says judiciously:

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

further recommending to us to

"Speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence."

And he might have coupled with this line that which he has coupled
with another,

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Text Comparison with The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

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Page 4
116 On the theory of the earth 117 New and curious theory of light and heat 122 Queries and conjectures relating to magnetism and the theory of the earth 125 On the nature of sea coal 125 Effect of vegetation on noxious air 129 On the inflammability of the surface of certain rivers in America 130 On the different quantities of rain which fall at different heights over the same ground 133 Slowly sensible hygrometer proposed, for certain purposes 135 Curious instance of the effect of oil on water 142 Letters on the stilling of waves by means of oil .
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_) the cloud of spray is forced off from the trunk of the spout, and falls backward.
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great weight to a considerable height in the air, &c.
Page 38
The usual temper of the air, at the time of their appearance, if I have a right information, is for me to; it being then pretty cool for the season and climate; and this is worth remark, because cool air is weighty, and will not ascend; besides, when the air grows cool, it shews that the upper region descends, and conveys this temper down; and when the tempers are equal, no whirlwind can take place.
Page 43
They may, indeed, be forced up by a wind from below, but do not rise of themselves, though filled with warm breath.
Page 59
[In the Philosophical Transactions for 1774, p.
Page 111
These flies presently began to move, and turned round on the water very rapidly, as if they were vigorously alive, though on examination he found they were not so.
Page 125
In the second case, figure 6, the cable will be drawn straight with a jerk, must sustain the whole force of the rising ship, and must either loosen the anchor, resist the rising force of the ship, or break.
Page 144
A small tin oven, to place with the open side before the fire, may be another good utensil, in which your own servant may roast for you a bit of pork or mutton.
Page 152
------------------------------------------------------------------------ |Date |Hour|Hour|Temp|Temp |Wind|Course|Dist-| Lat |Long | Remarks | | |A.
Page 195
He then put a small bird into the receiver, who breathed that air without any inconvenience, or suffering the least disorder.
Page 208
For if at the door, left so much open, the air thence proceeds directly to the chimney, and in its way comes cold to your back and heels as you sit before your fire.
Page 224
2, 1758,_ DEAR SIR, I have executed here an easy simple contrivance, that I have long since had in.
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page 297.
Page 288
He that spells truly most of the other's words is victor for that day; he that is victor most days in a month, to obtain a prize, a pretty neat book of some kind, useful in their future studies.
Page 301
Neither nature nor art have contributed much to the production of subsistence in Switzerland, yet we see frugality preserves and even.
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Page 362
_Drawling_, a defect in modern tunes, ii.
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_Nollet_, Abbé, Franklin's theory of electricity opposed by, i.