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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 name.
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 vera Nobilitas, was an adage with which he was well pleased. He considered adesc2ntfrom 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-printer}-. But by industry 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.
• His father Josiah Franklin, settled in New-England in 1682, and hi* mother, Abiah Folger, was the daughter of Peter Folger, of Nantucket one of the t >•:-! settlers of that country.
f The account of his arrival at Philadelphia, as drawn up l>y the accurate and elegant compilers of his life in that valuable work, the Universal Asy lum 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 aiivUed him to go to Philadelphia, to his son Andrew Bradford. From New-York to Philadelphia Franklin travelled, partly by water, and fifty miles by land on Cost, through rain and din, suspected 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.
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 means of the press, till its divine flame reaches the skies!
For the purpose of aiding his press, and increasing the materials of information, one of the first societies formed by Dr. Franklin, was in the year 1728, about the 22d of his age, and was called the Junto. It consisted of a select number of his younger friends, who met weekly for the " Discussion of questions in morality, politics, and natural philosophy." The number was limited to twelve members, who were bound together in all the ties of friendship, and engaged to assist each other, not only in the mutual communication of knowledge, but in all their worldly undertakings. This society, after having subsisted forty years, and having contributed to the formation of some very great men, besides Dr. Franklin himself, became at last the foundation of the American Philosophical Society, now assembled to pay the debtof gratitude to his memory. A book containing many of the questions discussed by the Junto was, on the formation of the American Philosophical Society, delivered into my hands, for the purpose of being digested, and in due time published among the transactions of that body. Many of the questions are curious and curiously handled; such as the following:
Is sound an entity or body?
How may the phenomena of vapors be explained?
Is self-interest the rudder that steers mankind; the universal monarch to whom all are tributaries?
Which is the best form of government, and what was that form which first prevailed among mankind?
Can any one particular form of government suit all mankind?
What is the reason that the tides rise higher in the bay of Fundy than in the bay of Delaware?
Is the emission of paper money safe?
What is the reason that men of the greatest knowledge are not the most happy?
How may the possession of the lakes be improved to our advantage?
Why are tumultuous, uneasy sensations united with our desires?
Whether it ought to be the aim of philosophy to eradicate the passions?
How may smoaky chimnies be best cured?
Why does the flame of a candle tend upwards in a spire? ..';
Which is least criminal, a bad action joined with a good intention, or a good action with a bad intention?
Is it consistent with the principles of liberty in a free government, to punish a man as a libeller, when he speaks the truth?
These, and such similar questions of a very mixt nature, being proposed in one evening, were generally discussed the succeeding evening, and the substance of the arguments entered in their books.
But Dr. Franklin did not rest satisfied with the institution of this literary club for the improvement of himself and a few of his select friends. He proceeded year after year, in the projecting and establishing other institutions for the benefit of the community at large.
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