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so long as to reach the four corners of a large thin silk handkerchief when extended; tie the corners of the handkerchief to the extremities of the cross, so you have the body of a kite; which being properly accommodated with a tail, loop, and string, will rise in the air like those made of paper; but this, being of silk, is fitter to bear the wet and wind of a thunder-gust without tearing. To the top of the upright stick of the cross is to be fixed a very sharp-pointed wire, rising a foot or more above the wood. To the end of the twine next the hand is to be tied a silk ribbon, and where the silk and twine join a key may be fastened.
"This kite is to be raised when a thunder-gust appears to be coming on, and the person who holds the string must stand within a door or window, or under some cover, so that the silk ribbon may not be wet; and care must be taken that the twine does not touch the frame of the door or window. As soon as any of the thunder-clouds come over the kite, the pointed wire will draw the electric fire from them, and the kite, with all the twine, will be electrified, and the loose filaments of the twine will stand out every way, and be attracted by an approaching finger. And when the rain has wetted the kite and twine, so that it can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the approach of your knuckle. At this key the vial may be charged; and from the electric fire thus obtained spirits may be kindled, and all other electric experiments be performed which are usually done by the help of a rubbed glass globe or tube, and thereby the sameness of the electric matter with that of lightning completely demonstrated."
We have spoken of the discussions between Benjamin and John Collins upon important subjects. When other boys were accustomed to spend their time in foolish talking and jesting, they were warmly discussing some question in advance of their years, and well suited to improve their minds. One of the subjects was a singular one for that
day-female education. Legislators, statesmen, ministers, and teachers did not believe that girls should be educated as thoroughly as boys. Fewer advantages should be accorded to them. John Collins accepted the general view; but Benjamin struck out boldly in favour of liberal female education, being about a hundred years in advance of his times.
"It would be a waste of money to attempt to educate girls as thoroughly as boys are educated," said John; "for the female sex are inferior to the male in intellectual endowment."
"Pshaw!" exclaimed Benjamin; "you know better than that. The girls are not as simple as you think they are. I believe that females are not a whit inferior to males in their mental qualities."
"I would like to
it?" replied John. they have written."
know where you discover evidence of "There is no proof of it in the works
"That may be true, and still they stand upon an equality in respect to intellect. For not half as much is done to educate them as there is to educate the male sex. How can you tell whether they are mentally inferior or not, until they are permitted to enjoy equal advantages?"
"As we tell other things," answered John. "Females do not need so high mental endowments as males, since they are not required to lead off in the different branches of business, or to prosecute the sciences. I can see no wisdom in bestowing talents upon them which they never use, and it is often said that 'nothing is made in vain.'
Well, I must go," said Benjamin; "but I think you have a weak cause to defend. If I had the time I could make out a case."
"A poor one, I guess," quickly added John. "We will see, the next time we meet, who can make out a case."
"It will be some time before we meet again," replied Benjamin, "and our ardour will be cooled before that time,
I am thinking. But it will do us no harm to discuss the subject."
"If we keep our temper," said John, tacking his sentence to the last word of Benjamin's reply. And so saying, they parted.
After Benjamin had revolved the subject still more in his mind, he became anxious to commit his argument to writing. Accordingly, with pen and paper in hand, he sat down to frame the best argument he could in favour of educating the female sex. He wrote it in the form of a letter, addressed to his friend Collins, and, after having completed, he copied it in a fair hand, and sent it to him. This brought back a long reply, which made it necessary for Benjamin to pen an answer. In this way the correspondence continued, until several letters had passed between them, and each one had gained the victory in his own estimation.
Benjamin was anxious that his father should read this correspondence, as he would be a good judge of its quality; and, after a little, he took it to him, saying: "John and I have had some correspondence, and I want you should read our letters."
There is little question that Benjamin was so well satisfied with his own argument that he expected his father would give him much credit. Perhaps his father believed, with most men of that day, that the education of females was an unnecessary expense, and Benjamin expected to convert him to his belief. Whether it was so or not, his father replied:
"I should like to read it; what is it about?
Mr. Franklin improved the first opportunity to read the correspondence, and report to Benjamin.
"I have been very much pleased and profited by this correspondence. It is able for two boys like you and John; but I think John has the advantage of you."
"John the advantage!" exclaimed Benjamin, with considerable surprise and anxiety. "How so?"
"In some respects, not in all, I mean," added his father.
"Tell me of one thing in which he has the advantage," and Benjamin manifested disappointment when he made the request.
"Well, John's style of composition seems to me more finished, and he expresses himself with more clearness." "I rather think you are prejudiced, father." Benjamin said this for the want of something better to say.
"I rather think not," answered his father. 'You have the advantage of John in correct spelling, and in punctuation, which is the consequence of working in the printing office. But I can convince you that less method and clearness characterize your letters than his."
"I am ready to be convinced," answered Benjamin. "I hardly think I have attained perfection in writing yet."
His father proceeded to read from the letters of each, with the design of showing that John's composition was more perspicuous, and that there was more method in his argument. Nor was it a very difficult task.
"I am convinced," acknowledged Benjamin, before his father had read all he intended to read. "I can make improvement in those things without much trouble. There is certainly a good chance for it."
"That is what I want you should see. I am very much pleased with your letters, for they show that you have talents to improve, and that you are an original, independent thinker. My only reason in calling your attention to these defects is to assist you in mental improvement."
Benjamin was just the boy to be benefited by such friendly criticism. It would discourage some boys, and they would despair of any future excellence. The rank and file of boys would not be aroused by it to overcome the difficulty and go up higher. But Benjamin was aroused,
and he resolved that his composition should yet be characterized by elegance and perspicuity. He set about that improvement at once. We shall see in another chapter, how he purchased an old copy of the "Spectator" for a model, and set about improving his style.
It is quite evident that Mr. Franklin thought well of Benjamin's argument on female education, for he did not criticize it. Perhaps it was here that he found proof that his son was "an original and independent thinker." It is somewhat remarkable that a boy at that time should hold and advocate views of female education that have not been advanced generally until within forty years. Looking about now, we see that females stand side by side with males, in schools and colleges, in ability and scholarship; that they constitute a large proportion of teachers in our land now, when, before the American Revolution, it was not thought proper to employ them at all; that many of them are now classed with the most distinguished authors, editors, and lecturers; and that not a few occupy places of distinction in the learned professions, while many others are trusty clerks, book-keepers, saleswomen, and telegraph-operators. Young Franklin's views, the Boston printer-boy, a hundred and seventy years ago, are illustrated and confirmed to-day by the prominence and value of educated females.
That a printer-boy of fifteen years could accomplish so much, when he was obliged to work from twelve to fifteen hours each day at his trade, seems almost incredible. he allowed no moments to run to waste. He always kept a book by him in the office, and every spare moment was employed over its pages. In the morning, before he went to work, he found some time for reading and study. He was an early riser, not, perhaps, because he had no inclination to lie in bed, but he had more time to improve his mind. He gained time enough in the morning, by this early rising, to acquire more knowledge than some youth and young men do by going constantly to school. In the