« PreviousContinue »
to keep the secret till the arrival of the materials and I was in the mean time to procure work, if pol sible, 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 the undertaking, fent me a very civil message telling me that old friends ought noi to be disunited on account of a few words, which were the effect only of a momentary paslion and invited me to return to him. Meredith per suaded me to comply with the invitation, particu larly as it would afford him more opportunities of improving himself in the bufiness 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 order to execute it, I construcied a copper-plate printing-press ; the first that had been seen in the country. I engraved various ornanients and vigsnettes for the bills; and we repaired to Burlington together, where I executed the whole to the gene ral 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 acquaintance with the principal personages of the province; many of whom were conmillioned by the aflembly to su perintend the press, and to see that no more bills were printed than the law had prescribed. Accort dingly they were constantly with 115, each in bis 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. They took me to their houses, introduced me to their friends and treated me with the greatest civility ; while Keimer, though master, saw himself a little neglected. He was, in fact, a strange animal, ignorant of the common modes of life, apt to oppose with rudeness geneiaily received opinions, an enthufialt in certain points of religion, disgustingly unclean in his person, and a little knavith withal. - We remained there nearly three months; and at the expiration of this period I could conclude in the list of my friends, Judge Allen, Samuel Buftil, secretary of the province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, several of the Smiths, all members of the hirem bly, and Isaac Deacon, inspector-general. The last was a Mrewd 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 his trade, and that by industry he had at last acquired a competent fortune. “I foresee," said he one day to me, "that you will fcon supplant this man,” speaking of Keimer, “and get a fortune in the business at Philadelphia." He was totally ira norant at the time of my intention of eflablishing myself there, or any where else. These friends were very serviceable to me in the end, as was I allo upon occasion to some of them ; and th:y 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 I Vol.i.
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 im. pressions; and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvanism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as 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 were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lecture. It happened that they produced on me an effect precise]y 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 foon 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 nie extremely ill, without thu left remorse; when I considered the behaviour of Keith, another fieeihinker, and my own conduct towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at times gave me much uneafioeis, I was led to fufpect 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; tho' purblind man,
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 regarded it as fo blameless a work as I had formerly imagined ; and I suspected that fome error must have imperccptibly have glided into my argument, by all the inferrences I had drawn from it had been affected as frequently happens in metaphysical reafonings. In a word, I was at last convinced that truth, probity, and sincerity, in transactions be. tween man and man, were of the utmost importance to the happiness of life ; and I refolved from that moment, and wrote the resolution in my journal, to practise them as long as I lived.
Revelation indeed, as such, had no influence on my mind; but I was of opinion that, though certain actions could not be bad merely because revêlation prohibited them, or good because it enjoined (them, yet it was probable that those actions were prohibited because they were bad for us, or enjoined because advantageous in their nature, all things considered. This persuasion, divine providence, or some guardian angel, and perhaps a concurrence of favourable circumstances co-operating, preserva ed me from all immorality, or gross and voluntary injustice, to which my want of religion was calculated to expose me, in the dangerous period of youth and in the hazardous situations in which I sometimes found myself, among strangers, and at a distance from the eye and admonitions of my father. I may say voluntary, because the errors into which I had fallen, had been in a manner the forced result either of my own inexperience, or the dishoncity of others. Thus, before I entered on my new career, I had imbibed solid principles, and a characler of probity. I knew their value; and I made a solemn engagement with myself never to depart from them,
I had not long returned from Burlington before our printing materials arrived from London. I fettled my accounts with Keimer, and quitted him, with his own consent, before he had any knowledge of our plan. We found a louse to let near the market. We took it; and to render the rent less burthensome it was then twenty-four pounds a.year, but I have fince known it to let for seventy) we adınitted Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, with his ianily, who ealed us of a considerable part of it; and with him we agreed to board.
We had no sooner unpacked our letter, and put our press in order, than a perfun of iny acquaint ance, George House brought us a countryman, whom he had mer in the streets enquiring for a printer. Our money was almost exhausted by the number of things we had been obliged to procure.
The five fhillings we received from this country. man the firit fruit of our earnings, coming so fea tonably, gave me more pleasure than any fum have fince gained : and the recollection of the gratitude I felt on this occasion to George House, has rendered me often more difpofed, than perhaps I thould otherwise have been, to encourage young beginners in trade.
There are in every country morose beings, who are always prognosticating ruin. There was one of this stamp in Philadelphia. He was a man of fortune, declined in years, had aa air of wildong