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Guide! Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest: Strengthen my resolution to perform what that wisdom dictates: Accept my kind offices to thy other children, as the only return in my power for thy continual favors to me."
22 I used also sometimes a little prayer, which I took from Thomson's poems, viz.
"Father of light and life, thou Good Supreme!
23 The precept of order, requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time, one page in my little book contained the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural day :
24 I entered upon this plan for self-examination, and continued it with occasional intermissions for some time. I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.
25 To avoid the trouble of renewing now and then my little book, which, by scraping out the marks on the paper of old faults to make room for new ones in a new course, became full of holes, I transferred my tables and precepts to the ivory leaves of a memorandum book, on which the lines were drawn with red ink, that made a durable stain; and on those lines I marked my faults with a black lead pencil, which mark I could easily wipe out with a wet sponge.
26 After a while I went through one course only in a year, and afterwards only in several years; till I at length omitted them entirely, being employed in voyages and business abroad, with a multiplicity of affairs, that interfered; but I always carried my little book with me.
27 My scheme of Order gave me the most trouble; and Ifound that though it might be practicable when a man's business was such as to leave him the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman printer, for instance, it was not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own hours.
28 But on the whole, though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavor, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been, if I had not attempted it; as those who aim at perfect writing by imitating the engraved copies, though they never reach the wished-for excellence of those copies, their hand is mended by the endeavor, and is tolerable while it continues fair and legible.
29 It may be well my posterity should be informed, that to this little artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor owed the constant felicity of his life down to his 79th year, in which this is written. What reverses may attend the remainder, are in the hand of Providence; but if they arrive, the reflection on past happiness enjoyed, ought to help his bearing them with more resignation. To temperance he ascribes his long continued health, and what is still left to him of a good constitution.
30 To industry and frugality, the early easiness of his circumstances, and acquisition of his fortune, with all that knowledge that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and obtained for him some degree of reputation among the learned.
To sincerity and justice, the confidence of his country, and the honorable employs it conferred on him: and to the joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues, even in the imperfect state he was able to acquire them, all that evenness of temper, and that cheerfulness in conversation which makes his company still sought for, and agreeable even to his young acquaintance. I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.
31 It will be remarked that, though my scheme was not wholly without religion, there was in it no mark of any of the distinguished tenets of any particular sect: I had purposely avoided them; for being fully persuaded of the utility and excellency of my method, and that it might be serviceable to people in all religions, and intending some time or other to publish it, I would not have any thing in it that should prejudice any one, of any sect, against it.
32 I proposed writing a little comment on each virtue, in which I would have shown the advantages of possessing it, and the mischiefs of its opposite vice: I should have called my book The Art of Virtue, because it would have shown the means and manner of obtaining virtue, which would have distinguished it from the mere exhortation to be good, that does not instruct and indicate the means, but is like the Apostle's man of verbal charity, who, without showing to the naked and hungry how or where they might get clothes or victuals, only exhorted them to be fed and clothed. James ii. 15, 16.
33 But it so happened, that my intention of writing and publishing this comment was never fulfilled. I had, indeed, from time to time, put down short hints of the sentiments, reasonings, &c. to be made use of in it; some of which I have still by me; but the necessary close attention to private business in the earlier part of life, and public business since, have occasioned my postponing it.
34 For it being connected in my mind with a great and extensive project that required the whole man to execute, and which an unforeseen succession of employs prevented my attention to, it has hitherto remained unfinished.
35 In this piece it was my design to explain and enforce the doctrine, that vicious actions are not hurtful, because they are forbidden, but forbidden because they are hurtful; the nature of man alone considered: that it was therefore every one's interest to be virtuous, who wished to be happy, even in this world: and I should, from this circumstance,
have endeavored to convince young persons that no qualities are so likely to make a poor man's fortune as those of probity and integrity.
36 My list of virtues contained, at first, but twelve: But a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing and rather insolent, (of which he convinced me by mentioning several instances,) I determined to endeavor to cure myself if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest; and I added humility to my list, giving an extensivé meaning to the word.
37 I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it. I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manners; the conversations I engaged in went on more pleasantly.
38 The modest way in which I proposed my opinions, procured them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right. And this mode, which I at first put with some violence to natural inclination, became at length easy, and so habitual to me, that, perhaps, for the fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me.
39 And to this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had early so much weight with my fellow-citizens when I proposed new institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public councils, when I became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my point.
40 In reality there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride; disguise it, struggle with it, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it perhaps often in this history. For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.
[Here concludes what was written at Passy, near Paris.]
Franklin's extensive project of raising a united party to virtue, &c.
I am now about to write at home, (Philadelphia,) August, 1788, but cannot have the help expected from my papers, many of them being lost in the war. I have however found the following:
1 Having mentioned a great and extensive project which I had conceived, it seems proper, that some account should be here given of that project and its object. Its first rise in my mind appears in a little paper accidentally preserved, viz. “ Observations on my reading history, in library, May 9, 1731.
2 "That the great affairs of the world, the wars, revolutions, &c. are carried on and affected by parties. That the view of these parties is their present general interest; or what they take to be such. That the different views of these different parties occasion all confusion. That while a party is carrying on a general design, each man has his particular private object in view.
3 That as soon as a party has gained its general point, each member becomes intent upon his particular interest, which thwarting others, breaks that party into divisions and occasions more confusion.
4"That few in public affairs act from a mere view of the good of others, whatever they may pretend; and though their actings bring real good to their country, yet men primarily considered, that their own and their country's interest were united, and so did not act from a principle of benevolence. That fewer still, in public affairs, act with a view to the good of mankind.
5 "There seems to me at present to be great occasion for raising a United party to Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all nations into a regular body, to be governed by suitable good and wise rules, which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in their obedience to, than common people are to common laws.
6 "I at present think, that whoever attempts this aright, and is well qualified, cannot fail of pleasing God, and of meeting with success. B. F."
7 Revolving this project in my mind, as to be undertaken hereafter, when my circumstances should afford me the necessary leisure, I put down from time to time, on pieces of