Page images
PDF
EPUB

without ever writing a line to inform his parents what was become of him. His mental vivacity, and good natural disposition, made him an excellent companion; but he was indolent, thoughtless, and to the last degree imprudent.

John, the Irishman, soon ran away. I began to live very agreeably with the rest. They respected nie, and 1 he more so as they found Keimer incapable of instructing them, and as they learned something from me every day. We never worked on a Saturday, it being Keimer's sabbath ; so that I had two days a week for reading.

I increased my acquaintance with persons of knowledge and information in the town. Keimer himself irealed me with great civility and apparent esteem; and I had nothing to give me uneasiness, but my debt to Vernon, which I was unable to pay, my savings as yet being very liule. He had the goodness, however, not to ask me for the money.

Our press was frequently in want of the necessary quantity of letter; and there was no such trade as that of letter-founder in America. I had seen the practice of this art at the house of James, in London; but had, at ibe time, paid it very little attention. I however contrived to fabricate a mould. I made use of such letters as we had for punches, founded new letters of lead in matrices of clay, and thus supplied, in it tolerable manner, the wants that were most pressing.

I also, upon occasion, engraved various ornaments, made ink, gave an eve to the shop; in short, I was, in every respect, the factotum. But useful as I made myself, I perceived i hat my services became every day of less importance, in proportion as the other men improved; and when Keimer paid me my second quarter's wages, he gave me to understand ihat they were too heavy, and that he thought I ought to make an abatement. He became by degrees less civil, and assumed more the tone of master.

He frequently found fault, was difficult to please, and seemed always on the point of coming to an open quarrel with me.

I continued, however, te bear it patiently, conceiy. ing that his ill-humour was partly occasioned by the derangement and embarrassment of his affairs. At last a slight incident broke our connexion. Hearing a noise in the neighbourhood, I put my head out at the window to see what was the matter. Keimer being in the street, observed me, and, in a loud and angry tone, told me to mind iny work; adding some reproachful words, which piqued me the more, as they were uttered in the street; and the neighbours, whom the same noise had attracted to the windows, were witnesses of the manner in which I was treated. He immediately came up to the printing-room, and continued to exclaim against me. The quarrel became .warm on both sides, and he gave me notice to quit. him at the expiration of three months, as had been agreed upon between us; regretting that he was obliged to give me so long a term. I told him that his regret was superfluous, as I was ready to quit him instantly; and I took my hat and came out of the house, begging Meredith to take care of some things which I left, and bring them to my lodgings.

Meredith came to me in the evening. We talked for sume time upon the quarrel that had taken place. He had conceived a great veneration for me, and was sorry I should quit the house while he remained in it. He dissuaded me from returning to my native country, as I began to think of doing. He reminded me that Keimer owed me more than he possessed: that his creditors began to be alarmed ; that he kept his shop in a wretched state, often selling things at prime cost, for the sake of ready money, and continually giving credit without keeping any accounts; that of consequence, he must very soon fail, which would occasion a vacancy from which I might derive advantage. I objected my want of money. Upon which he informed me that his father had a very high opinion of me, and, from a conversation that had passed between them, be was sure that he would advance whatever might be necessary to establish us, if I was willing, to enter into partnership with him. “My time with Keimer," added he, “will be at an end next spring. In the mean time we may send to Lon: don for our press and types. I know that I am no

workman; but if you agree to the proposal, your skill in the business will be balanced by the capital shall furnish, and we will share the profits equally." His proposal was seasonable, and I fell in with it. His father, who was then in the town, approved of it. He knew that I had some ascendancy over his son, as I had been able to prevail on him to abstain a long time from drinking brandy; and he hoped that, when more closely connected with him, I should cure him entirely of this unfortunate habit.

I gave the father a list of what would be necessary to import from London. He took it to a merchant, and the order was given. We agreed to keep the secret till the arrival of the materials, and I was in the mean time to procure work, if possible, in another printing house; but there was no place vacant, and I remained idle. After some days, Keimer having the expectation of being employed to print some New Jersey money bills, that would require types and engravings which I only could furnish, and fearful that Bradford, by engaging me, might deprive him of this undertaking, sent me a very civil message, telling me that old friends ought not to be disunited on account of a few words, which were the effect only of a momentary passion, and inviting me to return to him. Meredith persuaded me to comply with the invitation, particularly as it would afford him more opportunities of improving himself in the business by means of my instructions. I did so; and we lived upon better terms than before our separation.

He obtained the New Jersey business; and, in ore der to execute it, I constructed a copper-plate print. ing press, the first that had been seen in the country.

engraved various ornaments and vignettes for the bills; and we repaired tv Burlington together, where I executed the whole to general satisfaction ; and he received a sum of money for this work, which enabled him to keep his head above water for a considerable time longer.

At Burlington I formed an acquaintance with the principal personages of the province ; many of whom were commissioned by the Assembly to superintend the press, and to see that no more bills were printed toan the iaw had prescribed. Accordingly they were constantly with us, each in his turn: and he that came, commonly brought with him a friend or two to bear him company. My mind was more cultivated by reading than Keimer's; and it was for this reason, probably, that they set more value on my conversation. l'hey took me to their houses, introduced me to their friends, and treated me with the greatest civility; while Keimer, though master, saw himself a litile neglected. He was, in fact, a strange animal, ignorant of the common modes of life, apt to oppose with rudeness generally received opinions, an enthusiast in certain points of religion, disgustingly unclean in his person, and a little knavish withal.

We remained there nearly three months; and ab the expiration of this period I could include in the Jist of my friends, Judge Allen, Samuel Bustil, secretary of the province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, several of the Smiths, all members of the Assembly, and Isaac Decon, inspector general. The last was a shrewd and subtle old man. He told me, that when a boy, his first employment had been that of carrying clay to brick-makers; that he did not learn to write till he was somewhat advanced in life; that he was afterwards employed as an underling to a surveyor, who taught him this trade, and that by industry he had at last acquired a competent fortune. “I foresee, said be one day to me," that you will soon supplant this man, (speaking of Keimer,) and get a fortune in the business at Philadelphia.". Ho was totally ignorant at the time, of my intention of establishing myself there, or any where else. These friends were very serviceable to me in the end, as I was also, upon occasion, to some of them; and they have continued ever since, their esteem for me.

Before I relate the particulars of my entrance into business, it may be proper to inform you what was at that time the state of my mind as to moral principles, that you may see the degree of influence they had upon the subsequent events of my life.

My parents had given me betimes religious impressions, and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely

[ocr errors]

was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according 28 I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of revelation itself. Some volumes against deism fell into my hands. They vere said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lecture. It happened that they produced on me an effect precisely the reverse of what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me much more forcible than the refutation itself. In a word, I soon became a perfect deist. My arguments perverted some other young persons, particularly Collins and Ralph. But in the sequel, when I recollected that they had both used me extremely ill, without the smallest remorse; when I considered the behaviour of Keith, another freethinker, and my own conduct towards Vernon and Miss Reed, which, at times, gave me great uneasiness, I was led to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful. I began to entertain a less favourable opinion of my London pamphlet, to which I had prefixed, as a motto, the following lines of Dryden :

Whatever is is right; though purblind man
Sees but part of the chain, the nearest link,
His eyes not carrying to the equal beam

That poises all above. And of which the object was to prove, from the attributes of God, his goodness, wisdom and power, that there could be no such thing as evil in the world, that vice and virtue did not in reality exist, and were nothing more than vain distinctions. I no longer rezarded it as so blameless a work as I had formerly imagined; and I suspected that some error must have imperceptibly glided into my argoment, by which all the inferences I had drawn from it had been affected, as frequently liappens in metaphysical reasonings. In il word, I was at last convinced that trut probity, and sincerity, in transactions between man and man, were of the utmost inportance to the happiness of life; and I resolved from that moment, and wrote the

« PreviousContinue »