« PreviousContinue »
Treat industry, to find more than fifty persons, (mostly young tradesmen,) willing to pay down for the purpose, forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum: with this little fund we began.
4 The books were imported; the library was open one day in the week for lending them to subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated in other towns, and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books; and in a few years were observed by strangers, to be better instructed, and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.
5 The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting oneself as the proposer of any useful project, that might be supposed to raise one's reputation in the smallest degree above that of one's neighbors, when one has need of their assistance to accomplish that project.
6 I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight, and stated it as a scheme of a number of friends, who had requested of me to go about and propose it to such as they thought lovers of reading. In this way my affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after practised it on such occasions; and from my frequent successes can heartily recommend it.
7 This library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study, for which I set apart an hour or two each day; and thus repaired in some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me. Reading was the only amusement I allowed myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or frolics of any kind; and my industry in my business continued as indefatigable as it was necessary.
8 We have an English proverb that says, "He that would thrive must ask his wife." It was lucky for me that I had one as much disposed to industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me cheerfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the papermakers, &c. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest.
9 For instance, my breakfast was for a long time bread and milk, (no tea) and I ate it out of a two penny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon: but mark how luxury will
enter families, and make a progress in spite of principle; being called one morning to breakfast, I found it in a china bowl, with a spoon of silver.
10 They had been bought for me, without my knowledge, by my wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of three and twenty shillings; for which she had no other excuse or apology to make, but that she thought her husband deserved a silver spoon and china bowl as well as any of his neighbors.*
His project of arriving at moral perfection: catalogue and illustrations of the moral virtues: art of virtue.
1 It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time, and to conquer all that either natural inclination, custom or company, might lead me into.
2 As I knew, or thought I knew what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found that I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined; while my attention was taken up, and care employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention, inclination was sometimes too strong for reason.
3 I concluded at length, that the mere speculative conviction, that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose, therefore, I tried the following method:
4 In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with, in my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking; while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition.
5 I proposed to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annexed to each, than
*This honest confession of Mrs. Franklin, discloses the principal cause of the slavery under which society suffers and struggles, from the rage of its members of all grades to imitate or excel each other in the display of external appearances.— -COMP.
a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues, all that at that time occurred to me as necessary or desirable; and annexed to each a short precept, which explained the extent I gave to its meaning.
6 These names of virtues, with their precepts, were: I. Temperance: Eat not to dulness; drink not to elevation. II. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
III. Order: Let all your things have their places: let each part of your business have its time.
IV. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
7 V. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i. e. waste nothing.
VI. Industry: Lose no time: be always employed in something useful: cut off all unnecessary actions.
VII. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit: think innocently and justly: and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
VIII. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
8 IX. Moderation: Avoid extremes: forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
X. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
XI. Tranquillity: Be not disturbed at trifles, nor at accidents common or unavoidable.
XIII. Humility: Imitate Jesus.
9 My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another; and so on till I should have gone through the thirteen: and as the previous acquisition of some, might facilitate the acquisition of others, I arranged them with that view as they stand above.
10 Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness. and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and a guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits, and the force of perpetual temptations.
11 This being acquired and established, Silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain knowledge at the same time that I improved in virtue; and considering that in
conversation it was obtained rather by the use of the ear than of the tongue, and therefore wishing to break a habit I was getting into, of prattling, punning, and jesting, (which only made me acceptable to trifling company,) I gave silence the second place.
12 This and the next, Order, I expected would allow me more time to attend to my project and my studies. Resolution once become habitual, would keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain all the subsequent virtues. Frugality and Industry, relieving me from my remaining debt, and producing affluence and independence, would make more easy the practice of Sincerity and Justice, &c. &c.
13 Conceiving then, agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in his golden verses, daily examination would be necessary, I contrived the following method for conducting that examination:
14 I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues. I ruled each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day in the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I crossed these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues; on which line, and in its proper column, I might mark by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue, upon that day.*
Form of the Pages.
EAT NOT TO DULNESS: DRINK NOT TO ELEVATION.
Tues. Wed. | Thur. Fri.
*This book is dated Sunday, 12th July, 1733, and is in the possession of Mr. W. T. Franklin, grandson of Dr. Franklin.
15 I determined to give a week's attention to each of the virtues successively. Thus in the first week, my great regard was to avoid every the least offence against Temperance; leaving the other virtues to their ordinary chances, only marking every evening the faults of the day.
16 Thus, if in the first week I could keep my first line marked Tem. clear of spots, I supposed the habit of that virtue so much strengthened, and its opposite weakened, that I might venture extending my attention to include the next; and for the following week keep both lines clear of spots. Broceeding thus to the last, I could get through a course complete in thirteen weeks, and four courses in a year.
17 And like him who having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, (which would exceed his reach and his strength,) but works on one of the beds at a time, and having accomplished the first, proceeds to a second; so I should have (I hoped) the encouraging pleasure, of seeing on my pages the progress made in virtue, by clearing successively my lines of their spots; till in the end, by a number of courses, I should be happy in viewing a clean book, after a thirteen weeks' daily examination.
18 This my little book had for its motto, these lines from Addison's Cato:
“Here will I hold: if there's a power above us, (And that there is, all nature cries aloud Through all her works,) he must delight in virtue: And that which he delights in must be happy!" 19 Another from the Proverbs of Solomon, speaking of wisdom and virtue :
"Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. "9
20 Another from Cicero:-"O vitæ philosophia dux! O virtutum indigatrix expultrixque vitiorum! Unus Dies bene, et ex præceptis tuis actus, peccanti immortalitanti est anteponendus." [O philosophy, thou guide of life! Nourisher of the virtues and extinguisher of the vices! One day well spent, and employed agreeable to thy precepts, is worth more than an eternity of sinning.]
21 And conceiving God to be the fountain of wisdom, I thought it right and necessary to solicit his assistance for obtaining it; to this end I formed the following little prayer, which was prefixed to my tables of examination, for daily use. "O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful