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Ben Franklin

autobiography

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Franklin's Autobiography
Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three children into New England about 1682. The conventicles having been forbidden by Law, and frequently disturbed, induced some considerable men of his acquaintance to remove to that country, and he was prevailed with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy their mode of religion with freedom. By the same wife he had four children more born there, and by a second wife ten more, in all seventeen; of which I remember thirteen sitting at one time at his table, who all grew up to be men and women, and married. I was the youngest son, and the youngest child but two, and was born in Boston, New England. My mother, the second, was Abiah Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of whom honorable mention is made by Cotton Mather, in his church history of that country, entitled "Magnalia Christi Americana," as "a godly learned Englishman," if I remember the words rightly. I have heard that he wrote sundry small occasional pieces, but only one of them was printed, which I saw now many years since. It was written in 1675, in the homespun verse of that time and people, and addressed to those then concerned in the government there. It was in favor of liberty of conscience, and in behalf of the Baptists, Quakers, and other sectaries that had been under persecution, ascribing the Indian wars, and others distresses that had be fallen the country, to that persecution, as so many judgments of God to punish so heinous an offense, and exhorting a repeal of those uncharitable laws. The whole appeared to me as written with a good deal of decent plainness and mainly freedom. The six concluding lines I remember, though I have forgotten the two first of the stanza; but the purport of them was that his censures proceeded from good will, and therefore he would be known to be the author.

Because to be a libeler (says he)
I hate it with my heart;
From Sherburne town, where now I dwell,
My name I do put here;
Without offense your real friend,
It is Peter Folgier.
My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades. I was put apprentices to different trades. I was put to the grammar school at eight years of age, my father intending to devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the church. My early readiness in learning to read ( which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read), and the opinion of all his friends that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his. My uncle Benjamin, too, approved of it, and proposed to give me all his shorthand volumes of sermons — I suppose as a stock to set up with --if I would learn his character. I continued, however, at the grammar school not quite one year, through in that time I had risen gradually from the middle of the class of that year to be the head of it , and farther was removed into the class above it, in order to go with that into the third at the end of the year. But my father, in the mean time, from a view of the expense of a college education, which, having, so large a family, he could not well afford, and the mean living many so educated were afterwards able to obtain — reasons that he gave to his friends in my hearing — altered his first intention, took me from the grammar school and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic kept by a then famous man, Mr. George Brownell, very successful in his profession generally, and that by mild, encouraging methods. Under him I acquired fair writing pretty soon, but I failed in the arithmetic, and made no progress in it. At ten years old I was taken home to assist my father in his business, which was that of a tallow-chandler and soap-boiler — a business he was not bred to, but had assumed on his arrival in New England, and on his dyeing trade would not maintain his family, being in little request. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wick for the candles, filing the dipping-mold and the molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of errands, etc.

I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination for the sea, but my father declared against it. However, living near the a water, I was much in and about it, learnt early to swim well, and to manage boats; and when in a boat or canoe with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions I was generally a leader among the boys, and sometimes led them into scrapes, of which I will mention one instance, as it shows an early projecting public spirit, tho' not then justly conducted.

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