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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 305

time in every joint, through fear of certain
malicious demons, who are said to haunt and guard such places. At
length a mighty hole is dug, and perhaps several cartloads of earth
thrown out; but, alas, no cag or iron pot is found! no seaman's chest
crammed with Spanish pistoles, or weighty pieces of eight! Then they
conclude, that through some mistake in the procedure, some rash word
spoke, or some rule of art neglected, the guardian spirit had power
to sink it deeper into the earth, and convey it out of their reach.
Yet, when a man is once thus infatuated, he is so far from being
discouraged by ill success, that he is rather animated to double his
industry, and will try again and again in a hundred different places,
in hopes at last of meeting with some lucky hit, that shall at once
sufficiently reward him for all his expense of time and labour.

This odd humour of digging for money through a belief, that much
has been hid by pirates formerly frequenting the river, has for
several years been mighty prevalent among us; insomuch that you
can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side, without
observing several pits dug with that design, and perhaps some lately
opened. Men, otherwise of very good sense, have been drawn into this
practice, through an overweening desire of sudden wealth, and an easy
credulity of what they so earnestly wished might be true. While the
rational and almost certain methods of acquiring riches by industry
and frugality are neglected or forgotten. There seems to be some
peculiar charm in the conceit of finding money; and if the sands of
Schuylkil were so much mixed with small grains of gold, that a man
might in a day's time, with care and application, get together to the
value of half a crown, I make no question but we should find several
people employed there, that can with ease earn five shillings a day
at their proper trades.

Many are the idle stories told of the private success of some people,
by which others are encouraged to proceed; and the astrologers,
with whom the country swarms at this time, are either in the belief
of these things themselves, or find their advantage in persuading
others to believe them; for they are often consulted about the
critical times for digging, the methods of laying the spirit, and the
like whimsies, which renders them very necessary to, and very much
caressed by, the poor deluded money-hunters.

There is certainly something very bewitching in the pursuit after
mines of

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] [Footnote 7: A title given in England in Franklin's time to the descendants of knights and noblemen.
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A little neglect may breed great mischief; for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy; all for want of a little care about a horseshoe nail.