Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
Home - Men - Women - All Biographies


King from 768-814 A.D. Pepin had two sons ...

James Watt
The history of inventors is generally the same old st...

Charles Martel
714-741 A.D. and Pepin, 741-768 A.D. After the death...

John James Audubon
The problem why certain men and women come to emin...

Abelard And Heloise
Many a woman, amid the transports of passionate and lan...

Byron And The Countess Guiccioli
In 1812, when he was in his twenty-fourth year, Lord ...

Henry The Second
1154-1189 and His Sons 1189-1216 In 1154, while Barb...

The Nibelungs
The time came when the people of Western Europe...

Charles Robert Darwin
On Wednesday, April 26, 1882, sitting in the North...

The Story Of Rachel
Outside of the English-speaking peoples the nineteent...

Benjamin Franklin

Among those whose contributions to physics have immortalized their
names in the annals of science, there is none that holds a more
prominent position in the history of the world than Benjamin Franklin.
At one time a journeyman printer, living in obscure lodgings in
London, he became, during the American War of Independence, one of the
most conspicuous figures in Europe, and among Americans his reputation
was probably second to none, General Washington not excepted.

Professor Laboulaye says of Franklin: "No one ever started from a
lower point than the poor apprentice of Boston. No one ever raised
himself higher by his own unaided forces than the inventor of the
lightning-rod. No one has rendered greater service to his country than
the diplomatist who signed the treaty of 1783, and assured the
independence of the United States. Better than the biographies of
Plutarch, this life, so long and so well filled, is a source of
perpetual instruction to all men. Every one can there find counsel and

A great part of the history of his life was written by Franklin
himself, at first for the edification of the members of his own
family, and afterwards at the pressing request of some of his friends
in London and Paris. His autobiography does not, however, comprise
much more than the first fifty years of his life. The first part was
written while he was the guest of the Bishop of St. Asaph, at Twyford;
the second portion at Passy, in the house of M. de Chaumont; and the
last part in Philadelphia, when he was retiring from public life at
the age of eighty-two. The former part of this autobiography was
translated into French, and published in Paris, in 1793, though it is
not known how the manuscript came into the publisher's hands. The
French version was translated into English, and published in England
and America, together with such other of Franklin's works as could be
collected, before the latter part was given to the world by Franklin's
grandson, to whom he had bequeathed his papers, and who first
published them in America in 1817.

For a period of three hundred years at least Franklin's family lived
on a small freehold of about thirty acres, in the village of Ecton, in
Northamptonshire, the eldest son, who inherited the property, being
always brought up to the trade of a smith. Franklin himself "was the
youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back." His
grandfather lived at Ecton till he was too old to follow his business,
when he went to live with his second son, John, who was a dyer at
Banbury. To this business Franklin's father, Josiah, was apprenticed.
The eldest son, Thomas, was brought up a smith, but afterwards became
a solicitor; the other son, Benjamin, was a silk-dyer, and followed
Josiah to America. He was fond of writing poetry and sermons. The
latter he wrote in a shorthand of his own inventing, which he taught
to his nephew and namesake, in order that he might utilize the sermons
if, as was proposed, he became a Presbyterian minister. Franklin's
father, Josiah, took his wife and three children to New England, in
1682, where he practised the trade of a tallow-chandler and
soap-boiler. Franklin was born in Boston on January 6 (O.S.), 1706,
and was the youngest of seventeen children, of whom thirteen grew up
and married.

Benjamin being the youngest of ten sons, his father intended him for
the service of the Church, and sent him to the grammar school when
eight years of age, where he continued only a year, although he made
very rapid progress in the school; for his father concluded that he
could not afford the expense of a college education, and at the end of
the year removed him to a private commercial school. At the age of ten
young Benjamin was taken home to assist in cutting the wicks of
candles, and otherwise to make himself useful in his father's
business. His enterprising character as a boy is shown by the
following story, which is in his own words:--

There was a salt marsh that bounded part of the mill-pond, on
the edge of which, at high-water, we used to stand to fish for
minnows. By much trampling we had made it a mere quagmire. My
proposal was to build a wharf there fit for us to stand upon,
and I showed my comrades a large heap of stones, which were
intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would very
well suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the
workmen were gone, I assembled a number of my play-fellows, and
working with them diligently, like so many emmets, sometimes two
or three to a stone, we brought them all away and built our
little wharf. The next morning the workmen were surprised at
missing the stones, which were found in our wharf. Inquiry was
made after the removers; we were discovered and complained of;
several of us were corrected by our fathers; and, though I
pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine convinced me that
nothing was useful which was not honest.

Until twelve years of age Benjamin continued in his father's business,
but as he manifested a great dislike for it, and his parents feared
that he might one day run away to sea, they set about finding some
trade which would be more congenial to his tastes. With this view his
father took him to see various artificers at their work, that he
might observe the tastes of the boy. This experience was very
valuable to him, as it taught him to do many little jobs for himself
when workmen could not readily be procured. During this time Benjamin
spent most of his pocket-money in purchasing books, some of which he
sold when he had read them, in order to buy others. He read through
most of the books in his father's very limited library. These mainly
consisted of works on theological controversy, which Franklin
afterwards considered to have been not very profitable to him.

"There was another bookish lad in the town, John Collins by name, with
whom I was intimately acquainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond
we were of argument, and very desirous of confuting one another, which
disputatious turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad habit,
making people often very disagreeable in company by the contradiction
that is necessary to bring it into practice; and thence, besides
souring and spoiling the conversation, is productive of disgusts and
perhaps enmities when you may have occasion for friendship. I had
caught it by reading my father's books of dispute about religion.
Persons of good sense, I have since observed, seldom fall into it,
except lawyers, university men, and men of all sorts that have been
bred at Edinburgh."

At length Franklin's fondness for books caused his father to decide to
make him a printer. His brother James had already entered that
business, and had set up in Boston with a new press and types which
he had brought from England. He signed his indentures when only twelve
years old, thereby apprenticing himself to his brother until he should
attain the age of twenty-one. The acquaintance which he formed with
booksellers through the printing business enabled him to borrow a
better class of books than he had been accustomed to, and he
frequently sat up the greater part of the night to read a book which
he had to return in the morning.

While working with his brother, the young apprentice wrote two
ballads, which he printed and sold in the streets of Boston. His
father, however, ridiculed the performance; so he "escaped being a
poet." He adopted at this time a somewhat original method to improve
his prose writing. Meeting with an odd volume of the Spectator, he
purchased it and read it "over and over," and wished to imitate the
style. "Making short notes of the sentiment in each sentence," he laid
them by, and afterwards tried to write out the papers without looking
at the original. Then on comparison he discovered his faults and
corrected them. Finding his vocabulary deficient, he turned some of
the tales into verse, then retranslated them into prose, believing
that the attempt to make verses would necessitate a search for several
words of the same meaning. "I also sometimes jumbled my collection of
hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavoured to reduce them
into the best order, before I began to form the full sentence and
complete the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of
my thoughts."

Meeting with a book on vegetarianism, Franklin determined to give the
system a trial. This led to some inconvenience in his brother's
house-keeping, so Franklin proposed to board himself if his brother
would give him half the sum he paid for his board, and out of this he
was able to save a considerable amount for the purpose of buying
books. Moreover, the time required for meals was so short that the
dinner hour afforded considerable leisure for reading. It was on his
journey from Boston to Philadelphia that he first violated vegetarian
principles; for, a large cod having been caught by the sailors, some
small fishes were found in its stomach, whereupon Franklin argued that
if fishes ate one another, there could be no reason against eating
them, so he dined on cod during the rest of the journey.

After reading Xenophon's "Memorabilia," Franklin took up strongly with
the Socratic method of discussion, and became so "artful and expert in
drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions, the
consequence of which they did not foresee," that some time afterwards
one of his employers, before answering the most simple question, would
frequently ask what he intended to infer from the answer. This
practice he gradually gave up, retaining only the habit of expressing
his opinions with "modest diffidence."

In 1720 or 1721 James Franklin began to print a newspaper, the New
England Courant. To this paper, which he helped to compose and print,
Benjamin became an anonymous contributor. The members of the staff
spoke highly of his contributions, but when the authorship became
known, James appears to have conceived a jealousy of his younger
brother, which ultimately led to their separation. An article in the
paper having offended the Assembly, James was imprisoned for a month
and forbidden to print the paper. He then freed Benjamin from his
indentures, in order that the paper might be published in his name. At
length, some disagreement arising, Benjamin took advantage of the
cancelling of his indentures to quit his brother's service. As he
could get no employment in Boston, he obtained a passage to New York,
whence he was recommended to go to Philadelphia, which he reached
after a very troublesome journey. His whole stock of cash then
consisted of a Dutch dollar and about a shilling's worth of coppers.
The coppers he gave to the boatmen with whom he came across from
Burlington. His first appearance in Philadelphia, about eight o'clock
on a Sunday morning, was certainly striking. A youth between seventeen
and eighteen years of age, dressed in his working clothes, which were
dirty through his journey, with his pockets stuffed out with stockings
and shirts, his aspect was not calculated to command respect.

"Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the market-house
I met a boy with bread. I had made many a meal on bread, and,
inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the baker's he
directed me to, in Second Street, and ask'd for bisket, intending such
as we had in Boston; but they, it seems, were not made in
Philadelphia. Then I asked for a threepenny loaf, and was told they
had none such. So, not considering or knowing the difference of money,
and the greater cheapness, nor the name of his bread, I bad him give
me three-penny-worth of any sort. He gave me, accordingly, three great
puffy rolls. I was surpriz'd at the quantity, but took it, and having
no room in my pockets, walk'd off with a roll under each arm, and
eating the other. Thus I went up Market Street as far as Fourth
Street, passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father; when
she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly
did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance. Then I turned and went
down Chestnut Street and part of Walnut Street, eating my roll all the
way, and, coming round, found myself again at Market Street Wharf,
near the boat I came in, to which I went for a draught of the river
water; and, being filled out with one of my rolls, gave the other two
to a woman and her child that came down the river in the boat with us,
and were waiting to go further."

In Philadelphia Franklin obtained an introduction, through a gentleman
he had met at New York, to a printer, named Keimer, who had just set
up business with an old press which he appeared not to know how to
use, and one pair of cases of English type. Here Franklin obtained
employment when the business on hand would permit, and he put the
press in order and worked it. Keimer obtained lodgings for him at the
house of Mr. Read, and, by industry and economical living, Franklin
found himself in easy circumstances. Sir William Keith was then
Governor of Pennsylvania, and hearing of Franklin, he called upon him
at Keimer's printing-office, invited him to take wine at a
neighbouring tavern, and promised to obtain for him the Government
printing if he would set up for himself. It was then arranged that
Franklin should return to Boston by the first ship, in order to see
what help his father would give towards setting him up in business. In
the mean while he was frequently invited to dine at the governor's
house. Notwithstanding Sir William Keith's recommendation, Josiah
Franklin thought his son too young to take the responsibility of a
business, and would only promise to assist him if, when he was
twenty-one, he had himself saved sufficient to purchase most of the
requisite plant. On his return to Philadelphia, he delivered his
father's letter to Sir William Keith, whereon the governor, stating
that he was determined to have a good printer there, promised to find
the means of equipping the printing-office himself, and suggested the
desirability of Franklin's making a journey to England in order to
purchase the plant. He promised letters of introduction to various
persons in England, as well as a letter of credit to furnish the
money for the purchase of the printing-plant. These letters Franklin
was to call for, but there was always some excuse for their not being
ready. At last they were to be sent on board the ship, and Franklin,
having gone on board, awaited the letters. When the governor's
despatches came, they were all put into a bag together, and the
captain promised to let Franklin have his letters before landing. On
opening the bag off Plymouth, there were no letters of the kind
promised, and Franklin was left without introductions and almost
without money, to make his own way in the world. In London he learned
that Governor Keith was well known as a man in whom no dependence
could be placed, and as to his giving a letter of credit, "he had no
credit to give."

A friend of Franklin's, named Ralph, accompanied him from America, and
the two took lodgings together in Little Britain at three shillings
and sixpence per week. Franklin immediately obtained employment at
Palmer's printing-office, in Bartholomew Close; but Ralph, who knew no
trade, but aimed at literature, was unable to get any work. He could
not obtain employment, even among the law stationers as a copying
clerk, so for some time the wages which Franklin earned had to support
the two. At Palmer's Franklin was employed in composing Wollaston's
"Religion of Nature." On this he wrote a short critique, which he
printed. it was entitled "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity,
Pleasure and Pain." The publication of this he afterwards regretted,
but it obtained for him introductions to some literary persons in
London. Subsequently he left Palmer's and obtained work at Watts's
printing-office, where he remained during the rest of his stay in
London. The beer-drinking capabilities of some of his fellow-workmen
excited his astonishment. He says:--

We had an alehouse boy who attended always in the house to
supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a
pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and
cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a
pint in the afternoon about six o'clock, and another when he had
done his day's work. I thought it a detestable custom, but it
was necessary, he suppos'd, to drink strong beer, that he
might be strong to labour. I endeavoured to convince him that
the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion
to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water of
which it was made; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of
bread; and therefore, if he would eat that with a pint of water,
it would give him more strength than a quart of beer. He drank
on, however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his
wages every Saturday night for that muddling liquor; an expense
I was free from. And thus these poor devils keep themselves
always under.

Afterwards Franklin succeeded in persuading several of the compositors
to give up "their muddling breakfast of beer and bread and cheese,"
for a porringer of hot-water gruel, with pepper, breadcrumbs, and
butter, which they obtained from a neighbouring house at a cost of
three halfpence.

Among Franklin's fellow-passengers from Philadelphia to England was an
American merchant, a Mr. Denham, who had formerly been in business in
Bristol, but failed and compounded with his creditors. He then went to
America, where he soon acquired a fortune, and returned in Franklin's
ship. He invited all his old creditors to dine with him. At the dinner
each guest found under his plate a cheque for the balance which had
been due to him, with interest to date. This gentleman always remained
a firm friend to Franklin, who, during his stay in London, sought his
advice when any important questions arose. When Mr. Denham returned to
Philadelphia with a quantity of merchandise, he offered Franklin an
appointment as clerk, which was afterwards to develop into a
commission agency. The offer was accepted, and, after a voyage of
nearly three months, Franklin reached Philadelphia on October 11,
1726. Here he found Governor Keith had been superseded by Major
Gordon, and, what was of more importance to him, that Miss Read, to
whom he had become engaged before leaving for England, and to whom he
had written only once during his absence, had married. Shortly after
starting in business, Mr. Denham died, and thus left Franklin to
commence life again for himself. Keimer had by this time obtained a
fairly extensive establishment, and employed a number of hands, but
none of them were of much value; and he made overtures to Franklin to
take the management of his printing-office, apparently with the
intention of getting his men taught their business, so that he might
afterwards be able to dispense with the manager. Franklin set the
printing-house in order, started type-founding, made the ink, and,
when necessary, executed engravings. As the other hands improved under
his superintendence, Keimer began to treat his manager less civilly,
and apparently desired to curtail his stipend. At length, through an
outbreak of temper on the part of Keimer, Franklin left, but was
afterwards induced to return in order to prepare copper-plates and a
press for printing paper money for New Jersey.

While working for Keimer, Franklin formed a club, which was destined
to exert considerable influence on American politics. The club met on
Friday evenings, and was called the Junto. It was essentially a
debating society, the subject for each evening's discussion being
proposed at the preceding meeting. One of the rules was that the
existence of the club should remain a secret, and that its members
should be limited to twelve. Afterwards other similar clubs were
formed by its members; but the existence of the Junto was kept a
secret from them. The club lasted for about forty years, and became
the nucleus of the American Philosophical Society, of which Franklin
was the first president. This, and the fact that many of the great
questions that arose previously to the Declaration of Independence
were discussed in the Junto in the first instance, give to the club a
special importance. The following are specimens of subjects discussed
by the club:--

"Is sound an entity or body?"

"How may the phenomena of vapours 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 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 possessions 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

"How may smoky chimneys 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?"

On leaving Keimer's, Franklin went into partnership with one of his
fellow-workmen, Hugh Meredith, whose father found the necessary
capital, and a printing-office was started which soon excelled its two
rivals in Philadelphia. Franklin's industry attracted the attention of
the townsfolk, and inspired the merchants with confidence in the
prospects of the new concern. Keimer started a newspaper, which he had
not the ability to carry on; Franklin purchased it from him for a
trifle, remodelled it, and continued it in a very spirited manner
under the title of the Pennsylvania Gazette. His political articles
soon attracted the attention of the principal men of the state; the
number of subscribers increased rapidly, and the paper became a source
of considerable profit. Soon after, the printing for the House of
Representatives came into the hands of the firm. Meredith never took
to the business, and was seldom sober, and at length was bought out by
his partner, on July 14, 1730. The discussion in the Junto on paper
currency induced Franklin to publish a paper entitled "The Nature and
Necessity of a Paper Currency." This was a prominent subject before
the House, but the introduction of paper money was opposed by the
capitalists. They were unable, however, to answer Franklin's
arguments; the point was carried in the House, and Franklin was
employed to print the money. The amount of paper money in Pennsylvania
in 1739 amounted to L80,000; during the war it rose to more than

"In order to secure my credit and character as a tradesman, I took
care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid
all appearances to the contrary. I drest plainly; I was seen at no
places of idle diversion. I never went out a-fishing or shooting; a
book, indeed, sometimes debauch'd me from my work, but that was
seldom, snug, and gave no scandal; and, to show that I was not above
my business, I sometimes brought home the paper I purchas'd at the
stores thro' the streets on a wheelbarrow. Thus being esteem'd an
industrious, thriving young man, and paying duly for what I bought,
the merchants who imported stationery solicited my custom; others
proposed supplying me with books, and I went on swimmingly. In the
mean time, Keimer's credit and business declining daily, he was at
last forc'd to sell his printing-house to satisfy his creditors."

On September 1, 1730, Franklin married his former fiancee, whose
previous husband had left her and was reported to have died in the
West Indies. The marriage was a very happy one, and continued over
forty years, Mrs. Franklin living until the end of 1774. Industry and
frugality reigned in the household of the young printer. Mrs. Franklin
not only managed the house, but assisted in the business, folding and
stitching pamphlets, and in other ways making herself useful. The
first part of Franklin's autobiography concludes with an account of
the foundation of the first subscription library. By the co-operation
of the members of the Junto, fifty subscribers were obtained, who each
paid in the first instance forty shillings, and afterwards ten
shillings per annum. "We afterwards obtained a charter, the company
being increased to one hundred. This was the mother of all the North
American subscription libraries, now so numerous. It is become a great
thing itself, and continually increasing. These libraries have
improved the general conversation of the Americans, made the common
tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other
countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so
generally made throughout the colonies in defence of their

Ten years ago this library contained between seventy and eighty
thousand volumes.

Franklin's success in business was attributed by him largely to his
early training. "My circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My

original habits of frugality continuing, and my father having, among
his instructions to me when a boy, frequently repeated a proverb of
Solomon, 'Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand
before kings; he shall not stand before mean men,' I from thence
considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction,
which encourag'd me, tho' I did not think that I should ever
literally stand before kings, which, however, has since happened;
for I have stood before five, and even had the honour of sitting
down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner."

After his marriage, Franklin conceived the idea of obtaining moral
perfection. He was not altogether satisfied with the result, but
thought his method worthy of imitation. Assuming that he possessed
complete knowledge of what was right or wrong, he saw no reason why he
should not always act in accordance therewith. His principle was to
devote his attention to one virtue only at first for a week, at the
end of which time he expected the practice of that virtue to have
become a habit. He then added another virtue to his list, and devoted
his attention to the same for the next week, and so on, until he had
exhausted his list of virtues. He then commenced again at the
beginning. As his moral code comprised thirteen virtues, it was
possible to go through the complete curriculum four times in a year.
Afterwards he occupied a year in going once through the list, and
subsequently employed several years in one course. A little book was
ruled, with a column for each day and a line for each virtue, and in
this a mark was made for every failure which could be remembered on
examination at the end of the day. It is easy to believe his
statement: "I am surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults
than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them

"This my little book had for its motto these lines from Addison's

"'Here will I hold. If there's a Power above us
(And that there is, all Nature cries aloud
Thro' all her work), He must delight in virtue;
And that which He delights in must be happy.'

"Another from Cicero:--

"'O vitae Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix expultrixque vitiorum!
Unus dies ex praeceptis tuis actus, peccanti immortalitati est

"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
honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are

"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 Guide! increase in
me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest. Strengthen my
resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind
offices to Thy other children as the only return in my power for Thy
continual favours to me.'

"I used also sometimes a little prayer which I took from Thomson's
Poems, viz.:--

"'Father of light and life, Thou Good Supreme!
Oh teach me what is good; teach me Thyself!
Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,
From every low pursuit; and fill my soul
With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;
Sacred, substantial, never-failing bliss!'"

The senses in which Franklin's thirteen virtues were to be understood
were explained by short precepts which followed them in his list. The
list was as follows:--


"Eat not to dulness; drink not to elevation.


"Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling

"3. ORDER.

"Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business
have its time.


"Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you


"Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste


"Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all
unnecessary actions.


"Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you
speak, speak accordingly.


"Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your


"Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they


"Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.


"Be not disturbed at trifles, or accidents common or unavoidable.



"Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

The last of these was added to the list at the suggestion of a Quaker
friend. Franklin claims to have acquired a good deal of the
appearance of it, but concluded that in reality there was no passion
so hard to subdue as pride. "For even if I could conceive that I had
completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility."
The virtue which gave him most trouble, however, was order, and this
he never acquired.

In 1732 appeared the first copy of "Poor Richard's Almanack." This was
prepared, printed, and published by Franklin for about twenty-five
years in succession, and nearly ten thousand copies were sold
annually. Besides the usual astronomical information, it contained a
collection of entertaining anecdotes, verses, jests, etc., while the
"little spaces that occurred between the remarkable events in the
calendar" were filled with proverbial sayings, inculcating industry
and frugality as helps to virtue. These sayings were collected and
prefixed to the almanack of 1757, whence they were copied into the
American newspapers, and afterwards reprinted as a broad-sheet in
England and in France.

In 1733 Franklin commenced studying modern languages, and acquired
sufficient knowledge of French, Italian, and Spanish to be able to
read books in those languages. In 1736 he was chosen Clerk to the
General Assembly, an office to which he was annually re-elected until
he became a member of the Assembly about 1750. There was one member
who, on the second occasion of his election, made a long speech
against him. Franklin determined to secure the friendship of this
member. Accordingly he wrote to him to request the loan of a very
scarce and curious book which was in his library. The book was lent
and returned in about a week, with a note of thanks. The member ever
after manifested a readiness to serve Franklin, and they became great
friends--"Another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned,
which says, 'He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready
to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.' And it
shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to
resent, return, and continue inimical proceedings."

In 1737 Franklin was appointed Deputy-Postmaster-General for
Pennsylvania. He was afterwards made Postmaster-General of the
Colonies. He read a paper in the Junto on the organization of the City
watch, and the propriety of rating the inhabitants on the value of
their premises in order to support the same. The subject was also
discussed in the other clubs which had sprung from the Junto, and thus
the way was prepared for the law which a few years afterwards carried
Franklin's proposals into effect. His next scheme was the formation of
a fire brigade, in which he met with his usual success, and other
clubs followed, until most of the men of property in the city were
members of one club or another. The original brigade, known as the
Union Fire Company, was formed December 7, 1736. It was in active
service in 1791.

Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society in 1743. The
head-quarters of the society were fixed in Philadelphia, where it was
arranged that there should always be at least seven members, viz. a
physician, a botanist, a mathematician, a chemist, a mechanician, a
geographer, and a general natural philosopher, besides a president,
treasurer, and secretary. The other members might be resident in any
part of America. Correspondence was to be kept up with the Royal
Society of London and the Dublin Society, and abstracts of the
communications were to be sent quarterly to all the members. Franklin
became the first secretary.

Spain, having been for some years at war with England, was joined at
length by France. This threatened danger to the American colonies, as
France then held Canada, and no organization for their defence
existed. Franklin published a pamphlet entitled "Plain Truth," setting
forth the unarmed condition of the colonies, and recommending the
formation of a volunteer force for defensive purposes. The pamphlet
excited much attention. A public meeting was held and addressed by
Franklin; at this meeting twelve hundred joined the association. At
length the number of members enrolled exceeded ten thousand. These all
provided themselves with arms, formed regiments and companies, elected
their own officers, and attended once a week for military drill.
Franklin was elected colonel of the Philadelphia Regiment, but
declined the appointment, and served as a private soldier. The
provision of war material was a difficulty with the Assembly, which
consisted largely of Quakers, who, though they appeared privately to
be willing that the country should be put in a state of defence,
hesitated to vote in opposition to their peace principles. Hence it
was that, when the Government of New England asked a grant of
gunpowder from Pennsylvania, the Assembly voted L3000 "for the
purchasing of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain." Pebble-powder
was not then in use. When it was proposed to devote L60, which was a
balance in the hands of the Union Fire Company, as a contribution
towards the erection of a battery below the town, Franklin suggested
that it should be proposed that a fire-engine be purchased with the
money, and that the committee should "buy a great gun, which is
certainly a fire-engine."

The "Pennsylvania fireplace" was invented in 1742. A patent was
offered to Franklin by the Governor of Pennsylvania, but he declined
it on the principle "that, as we enjoy great advantages from the
inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve
others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and
generously." An ironmonger in London made slight alterations, which
were not improvements, in the design, and took out a patent for the
fireplace, whereby he made a "small fortune." Franklin never contested
the patent, "having no desire of profiting by patents himself," and
"hating disputes." This fireplace was designed to burn wood, but,
unlike the German stoves, it was completely open in front, though
enclosed at the sides and top. An air-chamber was formed in the middle
of the stove, so arranged that, while the burning wood was in contact
with the front of the chamber, the flame passed above and behind it on
its way to the flue. Through this chamber a constant current of air
passed, entering the room heated, but not contaminated, by the
products of combustion. In this way the stove furnished a constant
supply of fresh warm air to the room, while it possessed all the
advantages of an open fireplace. Subsequently Franklin contrived a
special fireplace for the combustion of coal. In the scientific
thought which he devoted to the requirements of the domestic
economist, as in very many other particulars, Franklin strongly
reminds us of Count Rumford.

The next important enterprise which Franklin undertook, partly through
the medium of the Junto, was to establish an academy which soon
developed into the University of Philadelphia. The members of the club
having taken up the subject, the next step was to enlist the sympathy
of a wider constituency, and this Franklin effected, in his usual way,
by the publication of a pamphlet. He then set on foot a subscription,
the payments to extend over five years, and thereby obtained about
L5000. A house was taken and schools opened in 1749. The classes soon
became too large for the house, and the trustees of the academy then
took over a large building, or "tabernacle," which had been erected
for George Whitefield when he was preaching in Philadelphia. The hall
was divided into stories, and at a very small expense adapted to the
requirements of the classes. Franklin, having taken a partner in his
printing business, took the oversight of the work. Afterwards the
funds were increased by English subscriptions, by a grant from the
Assembly, and by gifts of land from the proprietaries; and thus was
established the University of Philadelphia.

Having practically retired from business, Franklin intended to devote
himself to philosophical studies, having commenced his electrical
researches some time before in conjunction with the other members of
the Library Company. Public business, however, crowded upon him. He
was elected a member of the Assembly, a councillor and afterwards an
alderman of the city, and by the governor was made a justice of the
peace. As a member of the Assembly, he was largely concerned in
providing the means for the erection of a hospital, and in arranging
for the paving and cleansing of the streets of the city. In 1753 he
was appointed, in conjunction with Mr. Hunter, Postmaster-General of
America. The post-office of the colonies had previously been conducted
at a loss. In a few years, under Franklin's management, it not only
paid the stipends of himself and Mr. Hunter, but yielded a
considerable revenue to the Crown. But it was not only in the conduct
of public business that Franklin's merits were recognized. By this
time he had secured his reputation as an electrician, and both Yale
College and Cambridge University (New England) conferred on him the
honorary degree of Master of Arts. In the same year that he was made
Postmaster-General of America he was awarded the Copley Medal and
elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, the usual fees being
remitted in his case.

Before his election as member, Franklin had for several years held the
appointment of Clerk to the Assembly, and he used to relieve the
dulness of the debates by amusing himself in the construction of magic
circles and squares, and "acquired such a knack at it" that he could
"fill the cells of any magic square of reasonable size with a series
of numbers as fast as" he "could write them." Many years afterwards
Mr. Logan showed Franklin a French folio volume filled with magic
squares, and afterwards a magic "square of 16," which Mr. Logan
thought must have been a work of great labour, though it possessed
only the common properties of making 2056 in every row, horizontal,
vertical, and diagonal. During the evening Franklin made the square
shown on the opposite page. "This I sent to our friend the next
morning, who, after some days, sent it back in a letter, with these
words: 'I return to thee thy astonishing and most stupendous piece of
the magical square, in which----;' but the compliment is too
extravagant, and therefore, for his sake as well as my own, I ought
not to repeat it. Nor is it necessary; for I make no question that you
will readily allow this square of 16 to be the most magically magical
of any magic square ever made by any magician."

The square has the following properties:--Every straight row of
sixteen numbers, whether vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, makes

Every bent row of sixteen numbers, as shown by the diagonal lines in
the figure, makes 2056.

If a square hole be cut in a piece of paper, so as to show through it
just sixteen of the little squares, and the paper be laid on the magic
square, then, wherever the paper is placed, the sum of the sixteen
numbers visible through the hole will be 2056.

200 217 232 249 8 25 40 57 72 89 104 121 136 153 168 185
58 39 26 7 250 231 218 199 186 167 154 135 122 103 90 71
198 219 230 251 6 27 38 59 70 91 102 123 134 155 166 187
60 37 28 5 252 229 220 197 188 165 156 133 124 101 92 69
201 216 233 248 9 24 41 56 73 88 105 120 137 152 169 184
55 42 23 10 247 234 215 202 183 170 151 138 119 106 87 74
203 214 235 246 11 22 43 54 75 86 107 118 139 150 171 182
53 44 21 12 245 236 213 204 181 172 149 140 117 108 85 76
205 212 237 244 13 20 45 52 77 84 109 116 141 148 173 180
51 46 19 14 243 238 211 206 179 174 147 142 115 110 83 78
207 210 239 242 15 18 47 50 79 82 111 114 143 146 175 178
49 48 17 16 241 240 209 208 177 176 145 144 113 112 81 80
196 221 228 253 4 29 36 61 68 93 100 125 132 157 164 189
62 35 30 3 254 227 222 195 190 163 158 131 126 99 94 67
194 223 226 255 2 31 34 63 66 95 98 127 130 159 162 191
64 33 32 1 256 225 224 193 192 161 160 129 128 97 96 65

In 1754 war with France appeared to be again imminent, and a Congress
of Commissioners from the several colonies was arranged for. Of
course, Franklin was one of the representatives of Pennsylvania, and
was also one of the members who independently drew up a plan for the
union of all the colonies under one government, for defensive and
other general purposes, and his was the plan finally approved by
Congress for the union, though it was not accepted by the Assemblies
or by the English Government, being regarded by the former as having
too much of the prerogative in it, by the latter as being too
democratic. Franklin wrote respecting this scheme: "The different
and contrary reasons of dislike to my plan makes me suspect that it
was really the true medium; and I am still of opinion that it would
have been happy for both sides of the water if it had been adopted. The
colonies, so united, would have been sufficiently strong to have
defended themselves; there would then have been no need of troops from
England; of course, the subsequent pretence for taxing America, and
the bloody contest it occasioned, would have been avoided."

With this war against France began the struggle of the Assemblies and
the proprietaries on the question of taxing the estates of the latter.
The governors received strict instructions to approve no bills for the
raising of money for the purposes of defence, unless the estates of
the proprietaries were specially exempted from the tax. The Assembly
of Pennsylvania resolved to contribute L10,000 to assist the
Government of Massachusetts Bay in an attack upon Crown Point, but the
governor refused his assent to the bill for raising the money. At this
juncture Franklin proposed a scheme by which the money could be raised
without the consent of the governor. His plan was successful, and the
difficulty was surmounted for the time, but was destined to recur
again and again during the progress of the war.

The British Government, not approving of the scheme of union, whereby
the colonies might have defended themselves, sent General Braddock to
Virginia, with two regiments of regular troops. On their arrival they
found it impossible to obtain waggons for the conveyance of their
baggage, and the general commissioned Franklin to provide them in
Pennsylvania. By giving his private bond for their safety, Franklin
succeeded in engaging one hundred and fifty four-horse waggons, and
two hundred and fifty-nine pack-horses. His modest warnings against
Indian ambuscades were disregarded by the general, the little army was
cut to pieces, and the remainder took to flight, sacrificing the whole
of their baggage and stores. Franklin was never fully recouped by the
British Government for the payments he had to make on account of
provisions which the general had instructed him to procure for the use
of the army.

After this, Franklin appeared for some time in a purely military
capacity, having yielded to the governor's persuasions to undertake
the defence of the north-western frontier, to raise troops, and to
build a line of forts. After building and manning three wooden forts,
he was recalled by the Assembly, whose relations with the governor had
become more and more strained. At length the Assembly determined to
send Franklin to England, to present a petition to the king respecting
the conduct of the proprietaries, viz. Richard and Thomas Penn, the
successors of William Penn. A bill had been framed by the House to
provide L60,000 for the king's use in the defence of the province.
This the governor refused to pass, because the proprietary estates
were not exempted from the taxation. The petition to the king was
drawn up, and Franklin's baggage was on board the ship which was to
convey him to England, when General Lord Loudon endeavoured to make an
arrangement between the parties. The governor pleaded his
instructions, and the bond he had given for carrying them out, and the
Assembly was prevailed upon to reconstruct the bill in accordance with
the governor's wishes. This was done under protest; in the mean time
Franklin's ship had sailed, carrying his baggage. After a great deal
of unnecessary delay on account of the general's inability to decide
upon the despatch of the packet-boats, Franklin at last got away from
New York, and, having narrowly escaped shipwreck off Falmouth, he
reached London on July 27, 1757.

On arriving in London, Franklin was introduced to Lord Granville, who
told him that the king's instructions were laws in the colonies.
Franklin replied that he had always understood that the Assemblies
made the laws, which then only required the king's consent. "I
recollected that, about twenty years before, a clause in a bill
brought into Parliament by the Ministry had proposed to make the
king's instructions laws in the colonies, but the clause was thrown
out by the Commons, for which we adored them as our friends and the
friends of liberty, till, by their conduct towards us in 1765, it
seem'd that they had refus'd that point of sovereignty to the king
only that they might reserve it for themselves." A meeting was shortly
afterwards arranged between Franklin and the proprietaries at Mr. T.
Penn's house; but their views were so discordant that, after some
discussion, Franklin was requested to give them in writing the heads
of his complaints, and the whole question was submitted to the opinion
of the attorney- and solicitor-general. It was nearly a year before
this opinion was given. The proprietaries then communicated directly
with the Assembly, but in the mean while Governor Denny had consented
to a bill for raising L100,000 for the king's use, in which it was
provided that the proprietary estates should be taxed with the others.
When this bill reached England, the proprietaries determined to oppose
its receiving the royal assent. Franklin engaged counsel on behalf of
the Assembly, and on his undertaking that the assessment should be
fairly made between the estates of the proprietaries and others, the
bill was allowed to pass.

By this time Franklin's career as a scientific investigator was
practically at an end. Political business almost completely occupied
his attention, and in one sense the diplomatist replaced the
philosopher. His public scientific career was of short duration. It
may be said to have begun in 1746, when Mr. Peter Collinson presented
an "electrical tube" to the Library Company in Philadelphia, which was
some time after followed by a present of a complete set of electrical
apparatus from the proprietaries, but by 1755 Franklin's time was so
much taken up by public business that there was very little
opportunity for experimental work. Throughout his life he frequently
expressed in his letters his strong desire to return to philosophy,
but the opportunity never came, and when, at the age of eighty-two, he
was liberated from public duty, his strength was insufficient to
enable him to complete even his autobiography.

It was on a visit to Boston in 1746 that Franklin met with Dr. Spence,
a Scotchman, who exhibited some electrical experiments. Soon after his
return to Philadelphia the tube arrived from Mr. Collinson, and
Franklin acquired considerable dexterity in its use. His house was
continually full of visitors, who came to see the experiments, and, to
relieve the pressure upon his time, he had a number of similar tubes
blown at the glass-house, and these he distributed to his friends, so
that there were soon a number of "performers" in Philadelphia. One of
these was Mr. Kinnersley, who, having no other employment, was induced
by Franklin to become an itinerant lecturer. Franklin drew up a scheme
for the lectures, and Kinnersley obtained several well-constructed
instruments from Franklin's rough and home-made models. Kinnersley and
Franklin appear to have worked together a good deal, and when
Kinnersley was travelling on his lecture tour, each communicated to
the other the results of his experiments. Franklin sent his papers to
Mr. Collinson, who presented them to the Royal Society, but they were
not at first judged worthy of a place in the "Transactions." The paper
on the identity of lightning and electricity was sent to Dr. Mitchell,
who read it before the Royal Society, when it "was laughed at by the
connoisseurs." The papers were subsequently published in a pamphlet,
but did not at first receive much attention in England. On the
recommendation of Count de Buffon, they were translated into French.
The Abbe Nollet, who had previously published a theory of his own
respecting electricity, wrote and published a volume of letters
defending his theory, and denying the accuracy of some of Franklin's
experimental results. To these letters Franklin made no reply, but
they were answered by M. le Roy. M. de Lor undertook to repeat in
Paris all Franklin's experiments, and they were performed before the
king and court. Not content with the experiments which Franklin had
actually performed, he tried those which had been only suggested, and
so was the first to obtain electricity from the clouds by means of the
pointed rod. This experiment produced a great sensation everywhere,
and was afterwards repeated by Franklin at Philadelphia. Franklin's
papers were translated into Italian, German, and Latin; his theory met
with all but universal acceptance, and great surprise was expressed
that his papers had excited so little interest in England. Dr. Watson
then drew up a summary of all Franklin's papers, and this was
published in the "Philosophical Transactions;" Mr. Canton verified the
experiment of procuring electricity from the clouds by means of a
pointed rod, and the Royal Society awarded to Franklin the Copley
Medal for 1753, which was conveyed to him by Governor Denny.

We must now give a short account of Franklin's contributions to
electrical science.

"The first is the wonderful effect of pointed bodies, both in drawing
off and throwing off the electrical fire."

It will be observed that this statement is made in the language of the
one-fluid theory, of which Franklin may be regarded as the author.
This theory will be again referred to presently. Franklin electrified
a cannon-ball so that it repelled a cork. On bringing near it the
point of a bodkin, the repulsion disappeared. A blunt body had to be
brought near enough for a spark to pass in order to produce the same
effect. "To prove that the electrical fire is drawn off by the
point, if you take the blade of the bodkin out of the wooden handle,
and fix it in a stick of sealing-wax, and then present it at the
distance aforesaid, or if you bring it very near, no such effect
follows; but sliding one finger along the wax till you touch the
blade, and the ball flies to the shot immediately. If you present the
point in the dark, you will see, sometimes at a foot distance or more,
a light gather upon it like that of a fire-fly or glow-worm; the less
sharp the point, the nearer you must bring it to observe the light;
and at whatever distance you see the light, you may draw off the
electrical fire, and destroy the repelling."

By laying a needle upon the shot, Franklin showed "that points will
throw off as well as draw off the electrical fire." A candle-flame
was found to be equally efficient with a sharp point in drawing off
the electricity from a charged conductor. The effect of the
candle-flame Franklin accounted for by supposing the particles
separated from the candle to be first "attracted and then repelled,
carrying off the electric matter with them." The effect of points is a
direct consequence of the law of electrical repulsion. When a
conductor is electrified, the density of the electricity is greatest
where the curvature is greatest. Thus, if a number of spheres are
electrified from the same source, the density of the electricity on
the different spheres will vary inversely as their diameters. The
force tending to drive the electricity off a conductor is everywhere
proportional to the density, and hence in the case of the spheres will
be greatest for the smallest sphere. On this principle, the density of
electricity on a perfectly sharp point, if such could exist, on a
charged conductor, would be infinite and the force tending to drive it
off would be infinite also. Hence a moderately sharp point is
sufficient to dissipate the electricity from a highly charged
conductor, or to neutralize it if the point is connected to earth and
brought near the conductor so as to be electrified by induction.

Franklin next found that, if the person rubbing the electric tube
stood upon a cake of resin, and the person taking the charge from the
tube stood also on an insulating stand, a stronger spark would pass
between these two persons than between either of them and the earth;
that, after the spark had passed, neither person was electrified,
though each had appeared electrified before. These experiments
suggested the idea of positive and negative electrification; and
Franklin, regarding the electric fluid as corresponding to positive
electrification, remarked that "you may circulate it as Mr. Watson has
shown; you may also accumulate or subtract it upon or from any body,
as you connect that body with the rubber or with the receiver, the
common stock being cut off." Thus Franklin regarded electricity as a
fluid, of which everything in its normal state possesses a certain
amount; that, by appropriate means, some of the fluid may be removed
from one body and given to another. The former is then electrified
negatively, the latter positively, and all processes by which bodies
are electrified consist in the removal of electricity from one body or
system and giving it to another. He regarded the electric fluid as
repelling itself and attracting matter. AEpinus afterwards added the
supposition that matter, when devoid of electricity, is
self-repulsive, and thus completed the "one-fluid theory," and
accounted for the repulsion observed between negatively electrified

It had been usual to employ water for the interior armatures of Leyden
jars, or phials, as they were then generally called. Franklin
substituted granulated lead for the water, thereby improving the
insulation by keeping the glass dry. With these phials he contrived
many ingenious experiments, and imitated lightning by discharging them
through the gilding of a mirror or the gold lines on the cover of a
book. He found that the inner and outer armatures of his Leyden jars
were oppositely electrified. "Here we have a bottle containing at the
same time a plenum of electrical fire and a vacuum of the same
fire; and yet the equilibrium cannot be restored between them but by a
communication without! though the plenum presses violently to
expand, and the hungry vacuum seems to attract as violently in order
to be filled." The charging of Leyden jars by cascade, that is by
insulating all the jars except the last, connecting the outer armature
of the first with the inner armature of the second, and so on
throughout the series, was well understood by Franklin, and he knew
too that by this method the extent to which each jar could be charged
from a given source varied inversely as the number of jars. The
discharge of the Leyden jar by alternate contacts was also carried out
by him; and he found that, if the jar is first placed on an insulating
stand, it may be held by the hook (or knob) without discharging it.
Franklin, in fact, appears to have known almost as much about the
Leyden jar as is known to-day. He found that, when the armatures were
removed from a jar, no discharge would pass between them, but when a
fresh pair of armatures were supplied to the glass, the jar could be
discharged. "We are of opinion that there is really no more electrical
fire in the phial after what is called its charging than before, nor
less after its discharging; excepting only the small spark that
might be given to and taken from the non-electric matter, if separated
from the bottle, which spark may not be equal to a five-hundredth part
of what is called the explosion.

"The phial will not suffer what is called a charging unless as much
fire can go out of it one way as is thrown in by another.

"When a bottle is charged in the common way, its inside and
outside surfaces stand ready, the one to give fire by the hook, the
other to receive it by the coating; the one is full and ready to throw
out, the other empty and extremely hungry; yet, as the first will not
give out unless the other can at the same time receive in, so
neither will the latter receive in unless the first can at the same
time give out. When both can be done at once, it is done with
inconceivable quickness and violence."

Then follows a very beautiful illustration of the condition of the
glass in the Leyden jar.

"So a straight spring (though the comparison does not agree in every
particular), when forcibly bent, must, to restore itself, contract
that side which in the bending was extended, and extend that which was
contracted; if either of these two operations be hindered, the other
cannot be done.

"Glass, in like manner, has, within its substance, always the same
quantity of electrical fire, and that a very great quantity in
proportion to the mass of the glass, as shall be shown hereafter.

"This quantity proportioned to the glass it strongly and obstinately
retains, and will have neither more nor less, though it will suffer a
change to be made in its parts and situation; i.e. we may take away
part of it from one of the sides, provided we throw an equal quantity
into the other."

"The whole force of the bottle, and power of giving a shock, is in the
GLASS ITSELF; the non-electrics in contact with the two surfaces
serving only to give and receive to and from the several parts of
the glass, that is, to give on one side and take away from the other."

All these statements were, as far as possible, fully substantiated by
experiment. They are perfectly consistent with the views held by
Cavendish and by Clerk Maxwell, and, though the phraseology is not
that of the modern text-books, the statements themselves can hardly be
improved upon to-day.

One of Franklin's early contrivances was an electro-motor, which was
driven by the alternate electrical attraction and repulsion of leaden
bullets which discharged Leyden jars by alternate contacts. Franklin
concluded his account of these experiments as follows:--

Chagrined a little that we have been hitherto able to produce
nothing in this way of use to mankind, and the hot weather
coming on, when electrical experiments are not so agreeable, it
is proposed to put an end to them for this season, somewhat
humorously, in a party of pleasure, on the banks of Skuylkil.
Spirits, at the same time, are to be fired by a spark sent from
side to side through the river, without any other conductor than
the water--an experiment which we some time since performed, to
the amazement of many. A turkey is to be killed for our dinner
by the electrical shock, and roasted by the electrical jack
before a fire kindled by the electrified bottle, when the
healths of all the famous electricians in England, Holland,
France, and Germany, are to be drunk in electrified bumpers,
under the discharge of guns from the electrical battery.

Franklin's electrical battery consisted of eleven large panes of glass
coated on each side with sheet lead. The electrified bumper was a thin
tumbler nearly filled with wine and electrified as a Leyden jar, so
as to give a shock through the lips.

Franklin's theory of the manner in which thunder-clouds become
electrified he found to be not consistent with his subsequent
experiments. In the paper which he wrote explaining this theory,
however, he shows some knowledge of the effects of bringing conductors
into contact in diminishing their capacity. He states that two
gun-barrels electrified equally and then united, will give a spark at
a greater distance than one alone. Hence he asks, "To what a great
distance may ten thousand acres of electrified cloud strike and give
its fire, and how loud must be that crack?

"An electrical spark, drawn from an irregular body at some distance,
is scarcely ever straight, but shows crooked and waving in the air. So
do the flashes of lightning, the clouds being very irregular bodies.

"As electrified clouds pass over a country, high hills and high trees,
lofty towers, spires, masts of ships, chimneys, etc., as so many
prominences and points, draw the electrical fire, and the whole cloud
discharges there.

"Dangerous, therefore, is it to take shelter under a tree during a
thunder-gust. It has been fatal to many, both men and beasts.

"It is safer to be in the open field for another reason. When the
clothes are wet, if a flash in its way to the ground should strike
your head, it may run in the water over the surface of your body;
whereas, if your clothes were dry, it would go through the body,
because the blood and other humours, containing so much water, are
more ready conductors.

"Hence a wet rat cannot be killed by the exploding electrical bottle
[a quart jar], while a dry rat may."

In the above quotations we see, so to speak, the germ of the
lightning-rod. This was developed in a letter addressed to Mr.
Collinson, and dated July 29, 1750. The following quotations will give
an idea of its contents:--

"The electrical matter consists of particles extremely subtile, since
it can permeate common matter, even the densest metals, with such ease
and freedom as not to receive any perceptible resistance.[1]

[Footnote 1: Franklin was aware of the resistance of conductors (see
p. 96).]

"If any one should doubt whether the electrical matter passes through
the substance of bodies or only over and along their surfaces, a shock
from an electrified large glass jar, taken through his own body, will
probably convince him.

"Common matter is a kind of sponge to the electrical fluid.

"We know that the

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network