Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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"In the evening, hearing a great noise among them, the commissioners walk'd out to see what was the matter" 224

"Our axes ... were immediately set to work to cut down trees" 278

"We now appeared very wide, and so far from each other in our opinions as to discourage all hope of agreement" 318

"You will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the approach of your knuckle" 328

Father Abraham in his study 330

The end papers show, at the front, the Franklin arms and the Franklin seal; at the back, the medal given by the Boston public schools from the fund left by Franklin for that purpose as provided in the following extract from his will:

"I was born in Boston, New England, and owe my first instructions in literature to the free grammar-schools established there. I therefore give one hundred pounds sterling to my executors, to be by them ... paid over to the managers or directors of the free schools in my native town of Boston, to be by them ... put out to interest, and so continued at interest forever, which interest annually shall be laid out in silver medals, and given as honorary rewards annually by the directors of the said free schools belonging to the said town, in such manner as to the discretion of the selectmen of the said town shall seem meet."

[Illustration: B. Franklin From an engraving by J. Thomson from the original picture by J. A. Duplessis]

[Illustration: B. Franklin's signature]

INTRODUCTION

We Americans devour eagerly any piece of writing that purports to tell us the secret of success in life; yet how often we are disappointed to find nothing but commonplace statements, or receipts that we know by heart but never follow. Most of the life stories of our famous and successful men fail to inspire because they lack the human element that makes the record real and brings the story within our grasp. While we are searching far and near for some Aladdin's Lamp to give coveted fortune, there is ready at our hand if we will only reach out and take it, like the charm in Milton's _Comus_,

"Unknown, and like esteemed, and the dull swain Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon;"

the interesting, human, and vividly told story of one of the wisest and most useful lives in our own history, and perhaps in any history. In Franklin's _Autobiography_ is offered not so much a ready-made formula for success, as the companionship of a real flesh and blood man of extraordinary mind and quality, whose daily walk and conversation will help us to meet our own difficulties, much as does the example of a wise and strong friend. While we are fascinated by the story, we absorb the human experience through which a strong and helpful character is building.

The thing that makes Franklin's _Autobiography_ different from every other life story of a great and successful man is just this human aspect of the account. Franklin told the story of his life, as he himself says, for the benefit of his posterity. He wanted to help them by the relation of his own rise from obscurity and poverty to eminence and wealth. He is not unmindful of the importance of his public services and their recognition, yet his accounts of these achievements are given only as a part of the story, and the vanity displayed is incidental and in keeping with the honesty of the recital. There is nothing of the impossible in the method and practice of Franklin as he sets them forth. The youth who reads the fascinating story is astonished to find that Franklin in his early years struggled with the same everyday passions and difficulties that he himself experiences, and he loses the sense of discouragement that comes from a realization of his own shortcomings and inability to attain.

There are other reasons why the _Autobiography_ should be an intimate friend of American young people. Here they may establish a close relationship with one of the foremost Americans as well as one of the wisest men of his age.

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