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to make him punctual. In order to command the more time he was promptly at his work, and efficiently discharged every duty. It was this well-formed habit of punctuality that made him so reliable in the printing office. His brother knew that he would be there at such a time, and that he would remain just so many hours. This habit won his confidence, as it does the confidence of everyone. There is no quality that does more to gain a good name for an individual, and inspire the confidence of his fellow-men, than this one of being on time. It is so generally found in company with other excellent traits of character, that it seems to be taken for granted, usually, that the punctual person is worthy in other respects.
A ripe scholar was the neighbour of Dr. Adam Clarke, the commentator, when the latter had become quite renowned. On the same evening both saw a copy of the Greek Testament by Erasmus advertised. As soon as the ripe scholar had swallowed his breakfast, on the next morning, he hastened to the bookstore to purchase the volume. "You are too late; the book is sold," replied the bookseller to the inquiry of the gentleman. "Too late!" exclaimed the scholar; why, I came as soon as I had eaten my breakfast!" "Yes, but Adam Clarke came before breakfast," responded the merchant. The incident shows that the man who is on time has the inside track; and the inside track is nearest the goal. It is the wide-awake man who is prompt, not the dull, sleepy procrastinator. The best qualities of manhood must be on the alert to secure promptness; the poorest qualities will secure the opposite. The prize is taken by the worker who is on time. It is lost by him who is behind time, as the aforesaid scholar was. He planned to make sure of his breakfast before he did of the book; but Adam Clarke made sure of the book before he did of his breakfast, and he won.
In 1788, Washington visited Boston, and he decided to leave for Salem on the morning of a certain day, at eight
o'clock precisely. A company of cavalry volunteered to escort him to Salem. While the clock of the Old South Church was striking eight, Washington mounted his horse and started, though his escort had not put in an appearance. A few minutes later, however, they arrived, and were greatly mortified to find that Washington had gone. Putting spurs to their horses, they galloped forward, and overtook him at Charles River bridge. When they came up, Washington said: "Major, I thought you had been in my family too long not to know when it was eight o'clock."
The habit of punctuality which Franklin formed in his youth, distinguished him in his manhood as much as the same habit did Washington. There is no doubt that it exerted a large influence in placing him next to Washington among the founders of our republic. One of the maxims that he wrote in mature life was : "He that riseth late must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night."
E delay the narrative, at this point, to introduce a subject that Franklin often referred to as influencing his early life. In his "Autobiography," he said :—
"At his table he [his father] liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbour to converse with; and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent, in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table; whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind; so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters, as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was set before Indeed, I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell, a few hours after dinner, of what dishes it consisted. This has been of great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites."
This was different from much of the table-talk that is heard in many families now.
"I don't want any of that, I don't love it," exclaims one
child. “I should think you might have a better dinner than this."
What would you have if you could get it; roast chicken and plum pudding?" his mother replies, in a facetious way, instead of reproving him.
"I would have something I could eat. You know I don't love that, and never did.”
"Well it does boys good, sometimes, to eat what they don't love, especially such particular ones as you are,” adds his father.
"I sha'n't eat what I don't like, anyhow; I shall go hungry first."
"There, now, let me hear no more complaint about your food," adds his father, more sharply. "You are scarcely ever suited with your victuals."
"May I have some
is not on the table.
?" calling for something that
"If you will hold your tongue, and get it yourself, you can have it."
"And let me have some, too," shouts another child. "I don't love this, neither. May I have some, pa?”
"And I, too," exclaims still another. "I must have some if Henry and James do.”"
In this way the table-talk proceeds, until fretting, scolding, crying, make up the sum total of the conversation, and family joys are embittered for the remainder of the day. In contrast with the discipline of instructive conversation, such schooling at the fireside is pitiable indeed.
Franklin claimed that this feature of family government exerted a moulding influence upon his life and character. It caused him to value profitable conversation in boyhood and youth. In manhood he frequently found himself posted upon subjects made familiar to him by conversation at the table and hearthstone of his boyhood, especially topics relating to the mother-country. He was more particularly edified by conversation at home during the four
years that "Uncle Benjamin " was a member of his father's family. For this favourite "Uncle" was a very instructive talker, having been educated by the conversation of his father at home in England, as his nephew Benjamin was by his father in Boston. When "Uncle Benjamin" was very old, he could even recall the expressions which his father used in prayer at the family altar, and he wrote some of them in one of his books of poetry, as follows::
"Holy Father, into thy hand we commit our spirits, for thou hast redeemed them, O Lord God of Truth."
"Command thine angel to encamp round about our habitation."
"Give thine angels charge over us, that no evil may come nigh our dwelling."
"Thou knowest our down-lying and rising-up, thou art acquainted with all our wayes, and knowest our tho'ts afar off." "We know that in us, that is, in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing."
Holy Father, keep through thine own name all those that are thine, that none of them be lost."
"We thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth. Tho' thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, yet thou hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Holy Father, for soe it seemed good in thy sight."
We have copied the language just as it was written by"Uncle Benjamin," and it is chiefly Bible language, showing marked familiarity with the Scriptures.
We infer, from the foregoing, that useful conversation was characteristic of the Franklins of each generation, indicating a good degree of intelligence and talents of high order. Ignorance does not indulge in improving conversation; it could not if it would. Nor do small mental powers show themselves in excellence of conversation. So that it is quite evident that talents in the Josiah Franklin family were not limited to Benjamin. They reached back to former generations.