The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family

By Claude-Anne Lopez ; Eugenia W. Herbert | Go to book overview

II
Errata Committed, Errata Corrected

The kind hand of Providence or some guardian Angel . . . preserved me (thro' this dangerous Time of Youth and . . . sometimes among Strangers, remote from the Eye and Advice of my Father) without any wilful gross Immorality or Injustice that might have been expected from my Want of Religion.
--Autobiography

THE YOUTH was still raw and so was the town. Created out of the wilderness by William Penn's surveyor in 1681, twenty-five years before Benjamin's birth, Philadelphia had become a lodestone for the ambitious and oppressed of Europe and of the other American colonies. With its fine port on the Delaware and its fertile hinterland, it had grown to a city of about ten thousand, living along the neatly laid out streets that its founder called Walnut, Pine, and Chestnut to honor the forest from which it sprang.

Life was cheaper here--those three puffy rolls had been handed to Benjamin by the baker for the three cents a single roll would have cost in Boston--and it was also freer. On his first day, a Sunday, he had followed a crowd and ended up in a Quaker meeting. In the peaceful silence he fell asleep. Instead of being rudely jabbed by the sexton, as would have been the case in Massachusetts, he was gently awakened at the end of the service. Thus began his lifelong amity with the Quakers who had given Philadelphia its somewhat more relaxed tone and its mercantile prosperity.

The town was still so small that Franklin and his companions, as they rowed down the Delaware on the night he first arrived, feared they had passed beyond without noticing it. (Looking back on this period in his old age, a Philadelphian reminisced, with perhaps only slight exaggeration, that he had known "every person, white and black, men, women and children in the city of Philadelphia by name."1) The

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