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This was the first occasion he had had to drive me off." Benjamin spoke with the utmost coolness.
"It is the worst act for himself that he has done," continued. Meredith. "Every man he employs would leave him if work could be had elsewhere."
“I think I shall return to Boston, whether I remain there or not. It is a good time for me to visit my friends."
"I have something better than that to suggest. My thoughts have been busy on it all day, and I wanted to see you about it to-night before you laid any plans." Meredith's manner indicated something of importance.
What have you to propose? I am ready for any practicable enterprise you can name."
"I want to set up the printing business for myself, and I am not sufficiently acquainted with it, and you are. Can we not arrange to go into business together?"
Meredith's proposition took Benjamin by surprise, and evidently seemed impracticable to him.
"And have poverty for our capital?" replied Benjamin. with a laugh. “I am about as rich as you are.”
"No; have money for our capital, all that it is necessary to start us well in business," answered Meredith.
"That would be fine, I declare; but I would like to see the money first," added Benjamin, before Meredith could explain.
“Hold on a minute, let me explain, and you will see that my plan is not so impracticable as you seem to think. My father has money; and he has always said that he would start me in business whenever I got a good knowledge of it. He knows, of course, that I have not that knowledge yet; but he knows, too, that a man who can run Keimer's establishment has the requisite knowledge, and would be a good partner for me.”
"But your father will never advance the necessary capital," interrupted Benjamin. "If I was ten years older he might do it."
"I am confident that he will; at any rate, I will consult him about the matter, and learn just what he will do. I have told him all about you, and he will think it is a good 'opportunity for me."
Meredith consulted his father, and received the prompt
"Yes I will do it gladly. I know of no young man I would select for your partner in preference to Franklin." In a subsequent interview with Benjamin, Mr. Meredith said:
"I am all the more ready to furnish the capital, because your influence over my son has been so good. You influenced him to stop drinking when he was fast becoming intemperate, and I shall always feel grateful for it. You are just the one to be intimately associated with him."
It was settled that they should enter into partnership, and start their business as soon as the necessary outfit could be obtained from England.
THE LEATHERN-APRON CLUB.
BENJAMIN began to reflect much upon his religious
opinions (or, rather, irreligious), on his return voyage from England, as related to the errors and mistakes of his life. He had much time, during those three long, wearisome months, to study himself, past and present. Evidently he came to possess a more correct knowledge of himself on that voyage than he ever had before. He was so sincere in the matter that he drew up a number of rules by which to regulate his future life. A year and more afterwards, he enlarged and perfected this code of morals. The rules which he adopted on the Berkshire were prefaced with the following paragraph:
"Those who write of the art of poetry teach us that, if we would write what may be worth reading, we ought always, before we begin, to form a regular plan and design of our piece, otherwise we shall be in danger of incongruity. I am apt to think it is the same as to life. I have never fixed a regular design of life, by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one; let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that henceforth I may live like a rational creature."
The closing sentence shows that his conscience was making him considerable trouble, and that he concluded. his life had been very irrational. Perhaps he thought of Collins, whom he made a free thinker, and of Ralph, whom he corrupted in the same way. One of them became a
drunkard, and the other a polygamist; both of them cheating him out of a sum of money; might not their free thinking be related to their immoralities? He could not help thinking of these things, and so he wrote down the following rules:--
"I. It is necessary for me to be extremely frugal for some time till I have paid what I owe.
"2. To endeavour to speak truth in every instance; to give nobody expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every word and action; the most amiable excellence in a rational being.
"3. To apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty.
"4. I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and, upon proper occasions, speak all the good I know of everybody."
This was not all he wrote to guide his future career; but we have cited enough to show the current of Benjamin's thoughts at the time of which we are speaking. We shall see hereafter that he did not cease to reflect upon his career, and resolve upon a nobler life.
Soon after his return from England, perhaps after the death of Mr. Denham, Benjamin organized a literary club, composed, at first, of eleven members, all of them more or less talented and desirous of self-improvement, and nearly all of them mechanics, which fact caused the institution to be christened THE LEATHERN APRON CLUB, although the real name of it, as suggested by Franklin, was THE JUNTO.
The scope of the society can best be understood by the sample questions they discussed. The first thing done at their meetings was to read these questions, pausing after reading each for any remarks or propositions members might desire to make. The principal questions were as follows:
"I. Is there any remarkable disorder in the place that requires our endeavour for the suppression of it? And in what fair, likely way may we endeavour it ?
"2. Is there any particular person whose disorderly behaviour may be so scandalous and notorious that we may do well to send unto the said person our charitable admonitions? Or, are there any contending persons whom we should admonish, to quench their contentions?
"3. Is there any special service to the interest of Religion which we may conveniently desire our ministers to take notice of? "4. Is there anything we may do well to mention unto the justices for the further promoting good order?
"5. Is there any sort of officers among us to such a degree unmindful of their duty that we may do well to mind them of it?
"6. Can any further methods be devised that ignorance and wickedness may be chased from our people in general, and that household piety in particular may flourish among them?
"7. Does there appear any instance of oppression or fraudulence in the dealings of any sort of people that may call for our essays to get it rectified?
"8. Is there any matter to be humbly moved unto the Legislative Power, to be enacted into a Law for the public benefit?
"9. Do we know of any person languishing under sore and sad affliction; and is there any thing we can do for the succour of such an afflicted neighbour?
10. Has any person any proposal to make for our own further advantage and assistance, that we ourselves may be in a probable and regular capacity to pursue the intention before us?"
"I should pronounce that an ingenious society for doing good and getting good," said Coleman, after the questions were read.
"It was so, and Cotton Mather himself was a member of twenty of these societies," said Benjamin. "They became very popular, and I recall with what interest my father participated in the meetings. I often accompanied him, and, young as I was, they were very interesting to me. It