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Ben Franklin

Life of Benjamin Franklin by Jared Sparks


Remarks on the Origin and Genealogy of the Franklin Family.

THE origin of the name of Franklin, in England, may perhaps be traced to a different source from the one supposed by Dr. Franklin. The name Francquelin or Franquelin, is found in France; and, while he resided there, be received letters from several persons bearing that name, who claimed relationship, as having the same ancestry. It was said, that the name could be traced back at least to the fifteenth century in Picardy, and that the records of the town of Abbeville contained the names of John and Thomas Franquelin, woollen-drapers, who were inhabitants of that town in the year 1521. From this part of France, the emigrations to England at that time and previously were frequent, and it was inferred, that one or more families of the name of Franquelin were among the number, and that in England the orthography of the name was changed, according to a common usage. In the absence of direct proof on the subject, this conjecture is perhaps worthy of some consideration.

Dr. Franklin seems to have taken much pains to search out the history of his immediate ancestors. He traced them back four generations to Thomas Francklyne of Ecton, in Northamptonshire. His grandfather had nine children, of whom his father, JOSIAH, was the youngest. Josiah Franklin emigrated to Boston, New England, in the year 1684, or in the early part of 1685.

By the Record of Births in Boston, it appears, that there was a family by the name of Franklin among the early settlers. In 1638 the birth of Elizabeth, daughter of William Franklin, is recorded. There were other children, one of whom was Benjamin, who also had a son of the same name. The descendants of this family were, numerous. It is likewise probable, that one or two other families, of the name of Franklin, settled in Boston some time afterwards; but it is believed that no relationship can be traced between any of these families and that to which Dr. Franklin belonged.

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When Josiah Franklin established himself in Boston he had three children, born at Banbury, in Oxfordshire. After the birth of four others, his first wife died. He then married Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, of Nantucket, probably in the early part of the year 1690. By this marriage be had ten children, making seventeen in the whole; ten sons and seven daughters. BENJAMIN was the youngest son, and the fifteenth child, his sisters Lydia and Jane being younger.

All the brothers and sisters of Josiah Franklin lived and died in England, except Benjamin, who emigrated to Boston in the year 1715. His son, Samuel, a cutler by trade, had preceded him. This Benjamin was born March 20th, 1650. At the age of sixteen be began to learn the trade of a silk-dyer, and served an apprenticeship of seven years. He afterwards set up that business in London, and followed it there till he removed to America. He was married to Hannah Welles, daughter of Samuel Welles, a clergyman of Banbury, on the 23d of November, 1683. In one of the manuscript volumes of poems, mentioned by Dr. Franklin, is the following printed advertisement. — "Wrought things, printed English or India calicos, cloth, silk, and stuff, scoured; linen, cloth, silk, and stuff, dyed, printed, or watered ; and black cloth, silk, and stuff, dyed into colors; by Benjamin Franklin, at the Indian Queen, in Princes-Street, near Leicester Fields." — He had ten children, six sons and four daughters. They all died young, except Samuel, the eldest. His wife died on the 4th of November, 1705. From a brief account of himself, preserved in manuscript, and from some of his pieces in rhyme, he seems to have had many afflictions. Poverty, adversity, and sickness pursued him through life. When he left England, his wife and all his children, except his eldest son then in Boston, had been dead several years. After his arrival in Boston, he lived with his brother Josiah four years, till 1719, when be went to reside with his son, who had recently been married and become a housekeeper.

The manuscript volumes of poetry, before mentioned, are curious. The handwriting is beautiful, with occasional specimens of short-hand, in which Dr. Franklin says his uncle was skilled. The poetical merits of the compositions cannot be ranked high, but frequently the measure is smooth and the rhymes are well chosen. His thoughts run chiefly on moral and religious subjects. Many of the Psalms are paraphrased in metre. The making of acrostics on the names of his friends was a favorite exercise. There are likewise numerous proofs of his ingenuity in forming anagrams, crosses, ladders, and other devices. The specimens below were written to his nephew and namesake; the first two, when he was four years and a half old.

Sent to his Namesake, upon a Report of his Inclination to Martial affairs, July 7th, 1710.

"Believe me, Ben, it is a dangerous trade,
The sword has many marred as well as made;
By it do many fall, not many rise, —
Makes many poor, few rich, and fewer wise;
Fills towns with ruin, fields with blood; beside
'T is sloth's maintainer, and the shield of pride.
Fair cities, rich today in plenty flow,
War fills with want to-morrow, and with woe.
Ruined estates, the nurse of vice, broke limbs and scars,
Are the effects of desolating wars."

ACROSTIC, Sent to Benjamin Franklin in New England, July 15th, 1710.

"Be to thy parents an obedient son;
Each day let duty constantly be done;
Never give way to sloth, or lust, or pride,
If free you 'd be from thousand ills beside;
Above all ills be sure avoid the shelf.
Man's. danger lies in, Satan, sin, and self.
In virtue, learning, wisdom, progress make;
Ne'er shrink at suffering for thy Saviour's sake.
"Fraud and all falsehood in thy dealings flee,
Religious always in thy station be;
Adore the Maker of thy inward part
Now is the accepted time, give him thy heart;
Keep a good conscience, It is a constant friend,
Like judge and witness this thy acts attend.
In heart with bonded knee, alone, adore
None but the Three in One for evermore."

The following piece was sent when his Namesake was seven years old. It would appear that he had received from him some evidence of his juvenile skill in composition. Sent to Benjamin Franklin, 1713.

"Tis time for me to throw aside my pen,
When hanging sleeves read, write, and rhyme like men.
This forward spring foretells a plenteous crop;
For, if the bud bear grain, what will the top!
If plenty in the verdant blade appear,
What may we not soon hope for in the ear!
When flowers are beautiful before they're blown,
What rarities will afterward be shown!
If trees good fruit un'noculated bear,
You may be sure it will afterward be rare.
If fruits are sweet before they've time to yellow,
How luscious will they be when they are mellow!
If first years' shoots such noble clusters send,
What laden boughs, Engedi-like, may we expect in the end!"

These lines are more prophetic, perhaps, than the writer imagined. He continued to make verses, and to turn the Psalms into rhyme, after he came to New England. The precise time of his death is not known. He was living in 1727, and probably died the year following, at the age of seventy-eight.

His son, Samuel, had a son of the same name, born October 21st, 1721. He was an only child. He followed the trade of his father, and died in Boston, February 21st, 1775, leaving four daughters. 1. Eunice, married to Benjamin Callender. 2. Hannah, married to Samuel Emmons. 3. Sarah, married to Jerome Ripley. 4. Elizabeth, married to William Clouston. The last three are now living, in 1839.

The ancestors of Abiah Folger, the mother of Dr. Franklin, emigrated from England to America. In a letter to his sister, dated in London, January 13th, 1772, he says; "No arms of the Folgers are found in the Herald's Office. I am persuaded it uses originally a Flemish family, which came over with many others from that country in Queen Elizabeth's time, flying from the persecution then raging there." For the following facts relating to the family in America, I am chiefly indebted to Mr. William C. Folger, of Nantucket, who has made a diligent search in the early records of that Island and of Martha's Vineyard.

There is a tradition in the family, that John Folger, and his son Peter Folger, (the name was then written Foulger) crossed the Atlantic in the same vessel with Hugh Peters, in the year 1635. They came from Norwich, in the county of Norfolk, England. Peter was then eighteen years old, and of course was born in the year 1617. The father and son settled at Martha's Vineyard. The time is not exactly known, but it is supposed to have been very soon after they came to the country. It has not been ascertained whether John Folger's wife came with him, or whether she had died in England, and he married again in America. The name of his wife, Meribell, is mentioned in the records of Martha's Vineyard. He died about 1660. His wife was living in 1663. Peter was his only child.

In the year 1644, Peter Folger married Mary Morrell, who had been an inmate in Hugh Peters's family. He resided at Martha's Vineyard till 1663, when he removed to Nantucket, being among the first settlers of that Island. He was a man of considerable learning, particularly in mathematical science, and he practised surveying both in the Vineyard and Nantucket. He was one of the five commissioners first appointed to measure and lay out the land on the Island of Nantucket; and it was said in the order, that "whatsoever shall be done by them or any three of them, Peter Folger being one, shall be accounted legal and valid." This mode of wording the order shows the confidence that was placed in his integrity and judgment.

He acquired the Indian language, and served as interpreter, both in affairs of business, and in communicating religious instruction to the Indians. He rendered assistance in this way to the Reverend Thomas Mayhew, the distinguished missionary at Martha's Vineyard. Mr. Prince, in his account of Mayhew, says, that be had "an able and godly Englishman, named Peter Foulger, employed in teaching the youth in reading, writing, and the principles of religion by catechizing; being well learned likewise in the Scriptures, and capable of helping them in religious matters."× He is said to have preached on some occasions. There is a long letter from him to his son-in-law, Joseph Pratt, containing religious counsel, with much use of Scripture, according to the practice of those times. Indeed his poem, entitled A Looking-Glass for the Times, published in 1676, shows that he was not only well informed in theology, but in political affairs, such as they then were in New England. He died in 1690, and his widow in 1704.

The children of Peter and Mary Folger were, 1. Johannah, who married John Coleman. 2. Bethiah, married John Barnard, February, 1668-9. They were both drowned four months afterwards by the upsetting of a boat, while crossing from Nantucket. to the Vineyard. 3. Dorcas, married Joseph Pratt 4. Eleazer born 1648, married Sarah Gardner. 5. Bethshua, married — Pope. 6. Patience, married Ebenezer Harker. 7. John, born 1659, married Mary Barnard. 8. Experience, married John Swain 9. Abiah, born August 15th, 1667, married Josiah Franklin.

Joseph Pratt lived at one time in Nantucket, but is supposed to have removed to Boston. Some of the descendants of Pope also lived in Boston. John Pope was a physician of some eminence. Joseph Pope was ingenious in mechanics, and constructed the orrery in Harvard College. Robert Pope was a watchmaker, skilful in his art. The other children of Peter Folger and their descendants have nearly all resided in Nantucket. A son of Eleazer, of the same name, served as register of probate forty- seven years, and died in 1753, aged eighty-one. He was succeeded by his son Frederick, who held the same office thirty-seven years, and died in 1790, at the age of sixty-five. Peleg, a brother of Frederick, wrote many pieces in prose and verse, and was distinguished for his piety and estimable character; he died in 1789, aged fifty-five. Nathan, another son of the first Eleazer, had several children. His son Abisha was justice of the peace, and for thirty years represented the town in the legislature. Barzillai, another son of Nathan, commanded a vessel in the London trade. Abisha had a large family of children. Among them were William, George, and Timothy; the last of whom was justice of the peace and a merchant. He took an active part with the patriots at the beginning of the Revolution. There is a portrait of him by Copley. Barzillai likewise had many children. Among them was Walter, a man of great strength of mind, of strict probity and honor, a good mathematician, at one time commander of a vessel, and for many years a merchant and ship-owner. He died much respected in 1826, in the ninety-second year of his age. His son, Walter Folger, known as the astronomer of Nantucket, was born in 1765, and is still living (in 1839). Many years ago be invented and constructed a very ingenious astronomical clock. He also made a telescope with a magnifying power of about five hundred. The above are descendants of Eleazer, the son of Peter. His other son, John, had children, from whom have sprung descendants, but they are less known.

Although Dr. Franklin's grandfather had five sons, and his father five, who grow up to man's estate, were married, and together had a large number of children, yet there is not an individual in the male line, bearing the name, now remaining. Thomas Franklin was the only one in England as long ago as. 1766. Dr. Franklin found him at Lutterworth, in Leicestershire, poor and destitute, and contributed to his relief for several years. He supported and educated his only child, Sally, till she was married. He was living at Lutterworth, very old, in 1791. His daughter died in 1782. There is none bearing the name in America, who descended from this family. Dr. Franklin's brothers, John and James, each had a son, but these died without children. His first cousin, Samuel, likewise had a son, but the children of this son were four daughters. Dr. Franklin's eldest son, William, died in London, November, 1813. His wife, whom he married in London, 1762, just after he was appointed governor of New Jersey, died in 1777. As he took the side of the loyalists in the Revolution, he went to England after the war, received a pension from the King, and remained there till his death. He had an only son, William Temple, who died without issue. Dr. Franklin's other son, Francis Folger, died in childhood. His daughter, Sarah, was born September 11th 1744; married Richard Bache, October 29th, 1767; died October 5th, 1808. The children of Richard and Sarah Bache, were, 1. Benjamin Franklin Bache, born 1769, married Margaret Markoe, died 1798, during the yellow fever in Philadelphia. 2. William, married Catherine Wistar, died 1814. 3. Elizabeth, married John Harwood. 4. Louis. 5. Deborah, married William J. Duane. 6. Richard, married the eldest daughter of Alexander J. Dallas. 7. Sarah, married Thomas Sergeant. Their descendants are numerous.

It appears by Dr. Franklin's Will, that, at the time of his death, there were living descendants of his brothers Samuel and James, and of his sisters, Anne, Sarah, Lydia, and Jane. He left a small bequest to each of them.

The basis of the subjoined Genealogical Table is a paper supposed to have been drawn up by Dr. Franklin. It has been enlarged, and in some instances corrected, particularly in the dates, from the Record of Births in Boston, from Dr. Franklin's letters in which he speaks of his family, and from the manuscript volumes of his uncle Benjamin, which contain various particulars illustrative of this subject.

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