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begin, if I should not be able to put him through a course."
The decision to send him to school was arrived at in this doubtful way, and it was not laid more strongly than this before Benjamin for fear of awakening too high hopes in his heart.
"I have decided to send you to school," said his father to him, "but whether I shall be able to send you as long as I would like is not certain yet. I would like to educate you for the ministry if I could; how would you like that?"
"I should like to go to school; I should like nothing better," answered Benjamin. "About the rest of it I don't know whether I should like it or not."
"Well, it may not be best to discuss that," continued his father, 66 as I may not be able to carry out my plan to the end. It will cost a good deal to keep you in school and educate you, perhaps more than I can possibly raise with so large a family to support. I have to be very industrious now to pay all my bills. But if you are diligent to improve your time, and lend a helping hand at home, out of school hours, I may be able to do it."
"I will work all I can out of school, if I can only go," was Benjamin's cheerful pledge in the outset. "When shall I begin?"
Begin the next term. It is a long process to become educated for the ministry, and the sooner you begin the better. But you must understand that it is not certain I can continue you in school for a long time. Make the most of the advantages you have, and we will trust in Providence for the future."
Josiah Franklin's caution was proverbial. He was never rash or thoughtless. He weighed all questions carefully. He was very conscientious, and would not assume an obligation that he could not see his way clear to meet. He used the same careful judgment and circumspection
about the education of his son that he employed in all business matters. For this reason he was regarded as a man of sound judgment and practical wisdom, and his influence was strong and wide. When his son reached the youth of his fame, he wrote as follows of his father:
"I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was. He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and very strong. He could draw prettily, and was skilled a little in music. His voice was sonorous and agreeable, so that when he played on his violin, and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and on occasion was handy with other tradesmen's tools. But his great excellence was his sound understanding, and his solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate, and the straitness of his circumstances, keeping him close to his trade; but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading men, who consulted him for his opinion in public affairs, and those of the church he belonged to; and who showed a great respect for his judgment and advice. He was also consulted much by private persons about their affairs, when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties."
Of his mother he wrote, at the same time :—
"My mother had likewise an excellent constitution; she suckled all her ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have any sickness, but that of which they died—he at eighty-nine, and she at eighty-five years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble over their grave, with this inscription:
ABIAH, HIS WIFE,
LIE HERE INTERRED.
THEY LIVED LOVINGLY TOGETHER, IN WEDLOCK,
AND WITHOUT AN ESTATE, OR ANY GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT,
BY CONSTANT LABOUR AND HONEST INDUSTRY
(WITH GOD'S BLESSING),
MAINTAINED A LARGE FAMILY COMFORTABLY;
AND BROUGHT UP THIRTEEN CHILDREN AND SEVEN GRANDCHILDREN REPUTABLY.
FROM THIS INSTANCE, READER,
BE ENCOURAGED TO DILIGENCE IN THY CALLING,
AND DISTRUST NOT PROVIDENCE.
HE WAS A PIOUS AND PRUDENT MAN,
SHE A DISCREET AND VIRTUOUS WOMAN.
THEIR YOUNGEST SON,
IN FILIAL REGARD TO THEIR MEMORY,
PLACES THIS STONE.
J. F., BORN 1655; DIED 1744, ÆT. 89.
A. F., BORN 1667; DIED 1752, ÆT. 85."
We may say, here that the stone which Doctor Franklin erected, as above, became dilapidated, and that in 1827, the citizens of Boston replaced it by a granite obelisk. The bodies repose in the old Grancey cemetery, beside Park Street church.
It was arranged that Benjamin should begin his school. days, and enjoy the best literary advantages which the poverty of his father could provide. He acceded to the plan with hearty goodwill, and commenced his studies with such zeal and enthusiasm as few scholars exhibit.
The school was taught by Mr. Nathaniel Williams, successor of the famous Boston teacher, Mr. Ezekiel Cheever, who was instructor thirty-five years, and who discontinued teaching, as Cotton Mather said, "only when mortality took him off." The homely old wooden schoolhouse, one story and a half high, stood near by the spot on which the bronze statue of Franklin is now seen, and there was the "schoolhouse green," where "Ben" and his companions played together. Probably it was the only free grammar school that Boston afforded at that time; for the town could not have numbered a population of over eight thousand.
From his first day's attendance at school Benjamin gave promise of high scholarship. He went to work with a will, improving every moment, surmounting every difficulty, and enjoying every opportunity with a keen relish. Mr. Williams was both gratified and surprised. That a lad so young should take hold of school lessons with so much intelligence and tact, and master them so easily, was a surprise to him, and he so expressed himself to Mr. Franklin.
"Your son is a remarkable scholar for one so young. I am more than gratified with his industry and progress. His love of knowledge is almost passionate."
"Yes, he was always so," responded Mr. Franklin. "He surprised us by reading well before we ever dreamed of such a thing. He taught himself, and a book has always been of more value to him than anything else."
"You will give him an education, I suppose?" said Mr. Williams, inquiringly. "Such a boy ought to have the
"My desire to do it is strong, much stronger than my ability to pay the bills. It is not certain that I shall be able to continue him long at school, though I shall do it if possible."
"Such love of knowledge as he possesses ought to be
gratified," continued Mr. Williams. "He excels by far any scholar of his age in school. He will lead the whole school within a short time. His enthusiasm is really remarkable.”
Within a few months, as the teacher predicts, Benjamin led the school. He was at the head of his class in every study except arithmetic. Nor did he remain at the head of his class long, for he was rapidly promoted to higher classes. He so far outstripped his companions that the teacher was obliged to advance him thus, that his mental progress might not be retarded. Of course, teachers and others were constantly forecasting his future and prohesying that he would fill a high position in manhood. It is generally the case that such early attention to studies, in connection with the advancement that follows, awakens high hopes of the young in the hearts of all observers. These things foreshadow the future character, so that people think they can tell what the man will be from what the boy is. So it was with Franklin, and so it was with Daniel Webster. Webster's mother inferred from his close attention to reading, and his remarkable progress in learning, that he would become a distinguished man, and so expressed herself to others. She lived to see him rise in his profession, until he became a member of Congress, though she died before he reached the zenith of his renown.
The same was true of David Rettehouse, the famous mathematician. When he was but eight years old, he constructed various articles, such as a miniature waterwheel, and at seventeen years of age he made a complete clock. His younger brother declared that he was accustomed to stop, when he was ploughing in the field, and solve problems on the fence, and sometimes cover the plough handles with figures. The highest expectations of his friends were more than realized in his manhood. The peculiar genius which he exhibited in his boyhood gave him his world-wide fame at last.
Also George Stephenson, the great engineer, the son of a