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to the like benevolent and beneficent purposes, for the service of his country and the happiness of mankind, can receive no further addition to his praise.
Franklin, as a philosopher, might have become a Newton; and as a lawgiver, a Lycurgus: But he was greater than either of them, by uniting the talents of both, in the practical philosophy of doing good; compared to which, all the palms of speculative wisdom and science wither on the sight. He did not seek to derive his eminence from the mere profession of letters, which, although laborious, seldom elevates a man to any high rank in the public confidence and esteem; but he became great by applying his talents to things useful, and accommodating his instructions to the exigencies of times and the necessities of his country.
Had we no other proof of this, the great and dignified part which he sustained in the American revo. lution, one of the most important events recorded among the annals of mankind, would alone have been sufficient to immortalize his name; but when we take into the account his previous labours for half a century, to illuminate the minds of his fellow-citizens, to prepare them for the mighty event, to nurse them into greatness by the arts of industry and virtue, to shew them the happiness which lay within their reach, to teach them to dare, and to bear, and to improve success-this accumulation of services has woven for his head a diadem of such beauty, as scarcely ever adorned the brow of either ancient or modern worthy.
In the earliest stages of life, he had conceived the mighty idea of American empire and glory; but like
Hercules in the cradle, he was ignorant of his own strength, and had not conceived the achievements and labours which awaited him. He had not conceived that he was, one day, to contend with kings and potentates for the rights of his country; to extort from them an acknowledgment of its sovereignty; and to subscribe with his name the sacred instruments * which were to give it a pre-eminent rank among the nations of the earth, and to assure its liberty and independence to the latest ages!
He was content in his humble, but honourable, station of an useful private citizen, to cherish in his own bosom, and in distant view, the idea of American greatness; and he cherished those also in whom he discovered ideas congenial to his own! Here I can speak from grateful experience. An essay of mine, in early youth, anticipating that bright æra which has now commenced, when arts and science, religion and liberty, all that can adorn or exalt human nature, are diffusing themselves over this immense continent, which fell into his hands near forty years ago, first procured me that place in his esteem, that familiarity of conversation, and connexion with him, both in public and private life, which will enable me to proceed, with some advantage, to the remaining part of my duty, however unqualified in other respects.
That duty would lead me more immediately to contemplate him as a philosopher, the founder of that
• The declaration of American independence, by the congress of the United States, the treaties of amity and commerce, and of alliance with France; the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain, acknowledging the ir.dependence of America, &c.
society, by whose appointment I stand here, and the venerable conductor of our labours, through a long series of years, in “ the promotion of useful knowledge.” But as we are honoured, on this occasion, with the presence of the most illustrious public bodies, as well as the most respectable private citizens, who, having been alike benefitted by his services, are alike interested in his memory, I shall consider him in three distinct relations:
1st. As a Citizen of Pennsylvania, eminent in her councils, the founder and patron of most of those useful institutions which do honour to her
2d. As a Citizen of America, one of the chief and greatest workmen, in the foundation and establishment of her empire and renown.
3d. As a Citizen of the World, by the invention of useful arts, and the diffusion of liberal science, incessantly and successfully labouring for the happiness of the whole human race.
As the respect due to the public bodies, which compose such an illustrious part of this assembly, forbids me to trespass too long upon their precious time, I must forbear entering upon a full detail of the life and actions of this great man, in those several relations; and shall, therefore, touch but briefly on such parts of his character, as are either generally known in America, or have been already detailed by his numerous panegyrists, both at home and abroad.
Virtus veta Nobilitas, was an adage with which he was well pleased. He considered a descent from any of the virtuous peasantry and venerable yeomanry
of America, who first subdued the sturdy oaks of our forests, and assisted to introduce culture and civilization into a once untutored land, as having more true nobility in it, than a pedigree which might be traced through the longest line of those commonly called great and noble in this world.
Descended from parents, who first settled in America above an hundred years ago*; he was born at Boston, in January, 1706. The account of his education, which was such only as the common schools of that day afforded, the various incidents of his younger years, and the different occupations and professions for which his parents seemed to have intended him, before he was apprenticed to his brother, in the printing business, at the age of 12 years, although recorded by himself, and full of instruction, I shall leave wholly to his biographers, till his arrival at Philadelphia, about the 18th year of his age; to which city he came from the city of New York, partly by water, and partly by land on foot, his stock of clothes and cash at a vary low ebb, to seek for employment as a journeyman-printers. But by in
His father Josiah Franklin, settled in New-England in 1682, and his mother, Abiah Folger, was the daughter of Peter Folger, of Nantucket one of the first settlers of that country.
† The account of his arrival at Philadelphia, as drawn up by the accurate and elegant compilers of his life in that valuable work, the Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine, published by William Young, in Philadelphia, is as follows" After a passage of three days, he arrived from Boston at New-York, and immediately applied to William Bradford, the printer of that place, (who was the first printer in Pennsylvania) who could give him no employment, but aŭvised him to go to Philadelphia, to his son An. drew Bradford. From New-York to Philadelphia Franklin travelled, partly by water, and fifty miles by land on foot, through rain and dirt, suspecied
dustry and the application of his great natural talents to business, he soon was enabled to procure a press, and to stand upon his own footing.
This account of his low beginnings, it is hoped, will not scandalize any of his respectable fraternity. No, Gentlemen*; but you will exult in it when you consider to what eminence he raised himself, and raised his country, by the right use of the press. When you consider that the Press was the great instrument which he employed to draw the attention of Pennsylvania to habits of virtue and industry; to the institution of societies for the promotion of agriculture, commerce, and the mechanic arts; to the founding of schools, libraries, and hospitals, for the diffusion of useful knowledge, and the advancement of humanity—when you consider this, you will “ go and do likewise;" you will, with professional joy and pride, observe, that from the torch which Franklin kindled by the means of his press, in the New World, “ Sparks have been already “ stolen” (as the Abbe Fauchet beautifully expresses it) “ which are lighting up the sacred flame of liberty,
(virtue and wisdom) over the entire face of the globe.” Be it your part still to feed that torch by
and in danger of being taken into custody, as a runaway servant. On a Sunday morning, between 8 and 9 o'clock, he landed at market-street wharf, in a very dirty condition, in the clothes in which he had travelled from New York, weary and hungry, having been without rest and food for sometime, a perfect stranger to every body, and his whole stock of cash consisting of a Dutch dollar. Such was the entry of Benjamin Franklin into Philadelphia. From such beginnings did he rise to the highest eminence and respectability, not only in America, but amongst all civilized nations.
* This part was more immediately addressed to the printers of Philadelphia, who attended as a body, at the delivery of this oration.