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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 306

gold and silver and other valuable metals, and many have
been ruined by it. A sea-captain of my acquaintance used to blame
the English for envying Spain their mines of silver, and too much
despising or overlooking the advantages of their own industry
and manufactures. For my part, says he, I esteem the banks of
Newfoundland to be a more valuable possession than the mountains
of Potosi; and when I have been there on the fishing account, have
looked upon every cod pulled up into the vessel as a certain quantity
of silver ore, which required only carrying to the next Spanish port
to be coined into pieces of eight; not to mention the national profit
of fitting out and employing such a number of ships and seamen. Let
honest Peter Buckram, who has long, without success, been a searcher
after hidden money, reflect on this, and be reclaimed from that
unaccountable folly. Let him consider, that every stitch he takes
when he is on his shop board is picking up part of a grain of gold,
that will in a few days time amount to a pistole; and let Faber think
the same of every nail he drives, or every stroke with his plane.
Such thoughts may make them industrious, and of consequence in time
they may be wealthy. But how absurd is it to neglect a certain profit
for such a ridiculous whimsey: to spend whole days at the George, in
company with an idle pretender to astrology, contriving schemes to
discover what was never hidden, and forgetful how carelessly business
is managed at home in their absence: to leave their wives and a
warm bed at midnight (no matter if it rain, hail, snow, or blow a
hurricane, provided that be the critical hour) and fatigue themselves
with the violent exercise of digging for what they shall never find,
and perhaps getting a cold that may cost their lives, or at least
disordering themselves so as to be fit for no business beside for
some days after. Surely this is nothing less than the most egregious
folly and madness.

I shall conclude with the words of my discreet friend, Agricola, of
Chester County, when he gave his son a good plantation:--"My son,"
says he, "I give thee now a valuable parcel of land; I assure thee
I have found a considerable quantity of gold by digging there; thee
mayst do the same; but thee must carefully observe this, Never to dig
more than plow-deep."

FOOTNOTE:

[174] These are the "humorous pieces" mentioned by Dr. Franklin
in his Memoirs, page 86. We are indebted for them

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_ To wear their.
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