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even if she disliked the sermon or the preacher. “I never doubted,” says he, “the existence of the Deity ; that he made the world, and govern'd it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man ; that our souls are immortal ; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.” This little creed, which he deemed the essential part of all religions, led him to respect the churches according as they conformed to it and made few useless additions to it; and it lay at the root of his well-known simplicity, industry, and frugality, of which many naive and amusing records are given in the “ Autobiography.”
Such a moralist, accustomed to write maxims for the guidance of others, of course drew up from time to time, especially in youth, schemes for self-regulation, at one time he even “conceiv'd the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.” This failing, he set before him the task of “acquiring the habitude” of such virtues (thirteen in all) as the following, for example:
1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to eleFranklin's vation.-2. Silence. Speak not but what may list of virtues.
benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.-4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.-5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself ; i. e., waste nothing.--Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all un. necessary actions.-9. Moderation. Avoid extreams; for. bear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. -11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at acci
dents common or unavoidable.—13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
A bright Frenchwoman once said to me, with reference to the petition “Thy will be done,” in the Lord's Prayer: “Why say any more? that is enough." Similarly, one might say that Franklin's fourth rule included .
“the whole duty of man.” But this patient and methodical arrangement of life was not exactly like the inspection of one's spiritual ilia in which so many conscientious religionists have indulged in all ages ; and it certainly proved beneficial to himself and his fellows. Franklin possessed not a spark of the fire which burned in Dante or Savonarola, but his life-success can be summed up in the words : he made the most of himself.
His religious opinions may be dismissed with one more quotation—an “intended creed” for a possible new sect or school projected by Franklin, and never deemed impracticable by him, if one man should throw heart and soul into its propagation. This creed, he thought, contained “the essentials of every known religion,” and was free from every thing that might shock the professors of any religion. It was :
That there is one God, who made all things.
That he ought to be worshiped by adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving.
But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man.
That the soul is immortal.
And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice either here or hereafter.
On this solid basis the “Autobiography"--and the life it chronicled-went busily and cheerily on. The book tells us how Franklin organized a city watch and fire company in Philadelphia ; started an academy and a philosophical society ; experimented with electricity; invented the open stove still called after his name, and refused to take a patent for it; worked up from the Philadelphia common-council to the Continental Congress, and diplomacy, and treaty-making; concocted plans for a death-dealing militia on the one hand, and hospitals and hygienic streetcleaning on the other ; refused to become Colonel Franklin or General Franklin, but rejoiced in the peaceable honors of A.M. and LL.D., the first being given by Harvard and Yale “in consideration of my improvements and discoveries in the electric branch of natural philosophy”; received the Copley medal and became a member of the Royal Society, being “excus'd the customary payments, which would have amounted to twenty-five guineas”; and so on, in things great and small. The book is a fragment, but it is a fragment which has formed the basis of all the many biographies of Franklin. It is idle to compare the “ Autobiography" with “Robinson Crusoe,” as a piece of literature, but it certainly is wholesome and appetizing reading. Benjamin Franklin the author cannot be rated among writers of the first class; but it is seldom that the good motions of the world get jogged along by so sturdy and helpful a force as was Benjamin Franklin the man.
THE American literature which we have thus far studied is now interesting in many ways, Early Ameriand was not less interesting at the time of can literature
and European its first appearance. Much of it—as well as a considerable body of writing now justly forgotten or ignored—was regarded with pride by authors and readers alike. In poetry there were “ tenth muses”; in theology there were mighty makers of
systems; in the “literature of travel” there were pretentious chroniclers and resonant describ
It should not be forgotten, however, that these local magnates were little esteemed abroad. Speculators, geographers, and a part of the general public might read some of the wonderful accounts of life and scenery in the new world. Now and then a theologian purchased and studied one of the folios or less ambitious pamphlets produced by American divines. But the great mass of American literary productions had none but a home market. It will be remembered that thus far we have found not one American book of the first literary rank. Benjamin Franklin's great European reputation was personal, not literary; he was esteemed and listened to as
diplomat, scientist, individual force, not man of letters. Jonathan Edwards' famous treatise, so potent at home, made no great stir abroad, and the interest aroused by it in England and Scotland, such as it was, of course depended upon its philosophical merit, not its literary. As a mere piece of writing, indeed, its rank was not high.
But we come now to a class of literature which American was perforce read and studied in Europe. political writing. Thinking men might ignore the American traveller, theologian, poet, but the American political orator spoke so that his words resounded across the Atlantic; and the authors of the political literature of the colonies and the nascent nation did not lack distant readers. Their foreign students, to be sure, heeded less their manner than their matter. the American word, not the American grace that won attention ; but henceforth one division of the growing literature of the west was to have its attentive public. When we consider the state and the wealth of English literature in the seventeenth century, and even in the eighteenth, it is at once apparent that London, Oxford, and Edinburgh had no need to concern themselves with the comparatively weak and poor books and pamphlets coming from America. But when American orators and politicians were attacking cherished British traditions, and threatening to curtail or destroy British power in the New World, it became necessary to listen to what they were saying, and either to accept or to repel the force of their words.
The most potent voice in Massachusetts was that