The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 16

safest for myself and very
embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I took a
delight in it, practis'd 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 continu'd 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 any thing that may possibly be
disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the
air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, 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 engag'd
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 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
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

Last Page Next Page

Text Comparison with Benjamin Franklin and the First Balloons

Page 0
They have corrections in the author's hand-writing and, except for a few words, are quite legible.
Page 1
The letter dated November 30, appears never to have been printed and whereas Smyth reproduced the letter of November 21 from the University of Pennsylvania draft, this or another draft (or possibly this copy) was in the possession of the French aeronaut, Gaston Tissandier, about 1887.
Page 2
Since writing the above, I am favour'd with your kind Letter of the 25th.
Page 3
It contains 50,000 cubic Feet, and is supposed to have Force of Levity equal to 1500 pounds weight.
Page 4
The Night was quite calm and clear, so that it went right up.
Page 5
) PASSY, Nov^r 21st, 1783 Dear Sir, I received your friendly Letter of the 7th Inst.
Page 6
but there was at the same time a good deal of Anxiety for their Safety.
Page 7
I was happy to see him safe.
Page 8
But the Emulation between the two Parties running high, the Improvement in the Construction and Management of the Balloons has already made a rapid Progress; and one cannot say how far it may go.
Page 9
Being a little indispos'd, & the Air cool, and the Ground damp, I declin'd going into the Garden of the Tuilleries where the Balloon was plac'd, not knowing how long I might be oblig'd to wait there before it was ready to depart; and chose to stay in my Carriage near the Statue of Louis XV.
Page 10
Several Bags of Sand were taken on board before the Cord that held it down was cut, and the whole Weight being then too much to be lifted, such a Quantity was discharg'd as to permit its Rising slowly.
Page 11
Page 12
* * * * * Le petit Ballon est tombe dans la Cour du Dongeon a Vincennes.
Page 13
" Since Franklin's copy of the _Proces-Verbal_ differs only in his spelling the word "_sang-froid_" instead of "_sens-froid_," I do not print it.
Page 14
" corrected to "Bar^t.