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"Is that so? I am all the more anxious to learn who it is," he continued.
"There he is," replied James, pointing to Benjamin, who was setting type a little more briskly than usual, as if he was oblivious to what was going on.
"What! Benjamin! You are joking, surely," replied one. Your brother out there!" exclaimed another, pointing to Benjamin; "you don't mean it!
“Yes, I do mean it. He is the author, and he has satisfied me that he is. You can see for yourselves."
The "knot of liberals" was never so amazed; and now they all turned to Benjamin, and he had to speak for himself. They were not entirely satisfied that there was not some mistake or deception about the matter. But he found little difficulty in convincing them that he was the real author of the communications, whereupon they lavished their commendations upon him to such an extent as to make it perilous to one having much vanity in his heart.
From that time Benjamin was a favourite with the literary visitors at the office. They showed him much more attention than they did James, and said so much in his praise, as a youth of unusual promise, that James became jealous and irritable. He was naturally passionate and tyrannical, and this sudden and unexpected exaltation of Benjamin developed his overbearing spirit. He found more fault with him, and became very unreasonable in his treatment. Probably he had never dreamed that Benjamin possessed more talents than other boys of his age. Nor did he care, so long as his brother was an apprentice, and he could rule over him as a master. He did not appear to regard the blood-relationship between them, but only that of master and apprentice. In other words, he was a poor specimen of a brother, and we shall learn more about him in the sequel.
In his "Autobiography," Franklin tells the story of his ruse as follows:
"James had some ingenious men among his friends, who amused themselves by writing little pieces for this paper, which gained it credit, and made it more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their conversations, and their accounts of the approbation their papers were received with, I was excited to try my hand among them. But, being still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printing anything of mine in his paper, if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it at night under the door of the printing house. It was found in the morning, and communicated to his writing friends, when they called in as usual. They read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, in their different guesses at the author, none were named but men of some character among us for learning and ingenuity. I suppose that I was rather lucky in my judges, and that they were not really so very good as I then believed them to be. Encouraged, however, by this attempt, I wrote and sent in the same way to the press several other pieces, that were equally approved; and I kept my secret till all my fund of sense for such performances was exhausted, and then discovered it, when I began to be considered a little more by my brother's acquaintance.
"However, that did not quite please him, as he thought it tended to make me too vain. This might be one occasion of the differences we began to have about this time. Though a brother he considered himself as my master, and me as his apprentice, and accordingly expected the same services from me as he would from another, while I thought he degraded me too much in some he required of me, who from a brother expected more indulgence."
The foregoing was one of the incidents of Benjamin's boyhood that decided his future eminent career. It was a good thing to bring out his talents as a writer thus early,
and it introduced him to an exercise that was of the first importance in the improvement of his mind. From the time he wrote the first article for the Courant, he did not cease to write for the public. Probably no other American boy began his public career so early-sixteen. He had written much before, but it was not for the press. It was done for self-improvement, and not for the public eye. The newspaper opened a new and unexpected channel of communication with the public that was well suited to awaken his deepest interest and inspire his noblest efforts.
The incident reminds us of Canning's Microcosm. He, the great English statesman, was scarcely as old as Benjamin when he established a boy's periodical in the school at Eton, Iwhither he was sent. It was christened Microcosm, which means, literally, "the little world." It was a weekly publi
cation issued from Windsor. It was conducted "after the plan of the Spectator,”—a work that was of immense value to Benjamin, as we shall see," the design being to treat the characteristics of the boys at Eton as Addison and his friends had done those of general society." In this paper several members of the school figured with credit to themselves, though no one was more prominent and capable than Canning. It became one of the prominent influences that decided his future course, as he always affirmed, developing his talents, and stimulating his mind to labour in this honourable way. It also exerted a decided influence upon the character of another boy, named Frere, who afterwards shone as a writer on the pages of the Anti-Jacobin.
Examples of industry, enterprise, despatch, promptness, punctuality, and circumspection are inspiring to both old and young; and nowhere do these noble qualities appear to better advantage than they do where busy brains and hands make the newspaper in the printing office. It is a remarkably useful school. It was so when Benjamin was a boy. It was a far better school for him than that of Williams or Brownwell. Here he laid the foundation of his learning
and fame. The same was true of Horace Greeley, who founded The New York Tribune, and of Henry J. Raymond, who made The Times what it is. The late Vice-President Schuyler Colfax was schooled in a printing office for his honourable public career; and the same was true of other distinguished statesmen. But none of these examples are so remarkable as the following, that was made possible by Benjamin Franklin's example.
A waif two years of age was taken from a benevolent institution in Boston, and given to a childless sailor, on his way from a voyage to his home in Maine on the Penobscot River. The sailor knew not from what institution the child was taken, nor whence he came. He carried it home, without a name, or the least clue to his ancestry. The sailor's wife was a Christian woman, and had prayed for just such a gift as that. She resolved to train him for the Lord. At twelve years of age he became a Christian, and, from that time, longed to be a minister. But poverty stood in his way, and there was little prospect of his hopes being realized.
At length, however, he read the life of Benjamin Franklin ; and he learned how the printing office introduced him into a noble life-work. "I will go through the printing office into the ministry," he said to his adopted mother. So, at fifteen, he became a printer in Boston. After a while, his health broke down, and the way to regain it seemed to be through service to a wealthy man on his farm in the country. There his health was restored, and his benevolent employer got him into Andover Academy, where he led the whole class. Near the close of his preparatory course, on a Saturday night, the author met him under the following circumstances:
He was then nineteen years of age. On that day, he had learned from what institution he was taken, and, going thither, he ascertained that he had a sister three years older than himself, living thirty miles north of Boston. It was
the first knowledge he had received about any of his relatives. He was ten years old when his adopted parents informed him that he was taken, a waif, from an institution in Boston. From that time he was curious to find the institution and learn something of his ancestry. He was too young, when he was taken away, to remember that he had a sister. But on that day he learned the fact; and he took the first train to meet her. The author took the train, also, to spend the Sabbath with the minister who reared the sister. We met at the same family! What a meeting of brother and sister! The latter had mourned, through all these years, that she knew not what had became of her baby-brother, whom she well remembered and loved; but here he was, nineteen years of age, a manly, noble, Christian young man ! Could she believe her eyes? Could we, who were lookers on, think it real? We received the story of his life from his own lips.
He was the best scholar in his class through academy, college, and theological seminary, and is now an able and useful minister of the Gospel, indebted TO THE EXAMPLE AND EXPERIENCE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN IN THE PRINTING OFFICE FOR WHAT HE IS !