The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family

By Claude-Anne Lopez ; Eugenia W. Herbert | Go to book overview
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IX
Faith or Deeds?

Serving God is doing good to Man, but praying is thought an easier Service and therefore more easily chosen.
--Poor Richard, 1753

JANE HAD ALWAYS BEEN his "peculiar favorite"1 and remained so for the more than sixty years that they corresponded. He was the youngest of the Franklin boys, she was the youngest of the girls, and they outlived all the others. Separated from the older children by a gap of several years, Benjamin, Lydia, and Jane made up the last unit of the enormous family. Lydia seems to have been colorless, but Benjamin and Jane were of the same cast: intelligent, vital, unsinkable. In her seventies, after a life of drudgery in the course of which she had buried eleven of her twelve children and a large number of grandchildren, had been forced to flee her home during the Revolution, and was currently struggling to support the ne'er-do-well husband of her only surviving daughter, she remarked with a touch of wonder, "I am still cheerful for that is my natural temper."2

They were alike in many ways, Jane and Benjamin, but where he had managed to rise, she never had a chance. Married at fifteen to an almost illiterate saddler, Edward Mecom, whose health was always shaky, whose children were afflicted with a mysterious languor. Was it tuberculosis? Was it syphilis? Did she mean to imply anything when she commented that her husband had suffered much by "sin and sorrow,"3 or was she merely using a Puritan formula? She wanted so much to stretch her mind, to read, to converse, but she was forever cramped, spiritually and physically, squeezed in for years in her parents' house where she nursed the old and tended the young, then in her own home where poverty compelled her to take in lodgers.

Jane had a huge source of strength, her faith, and a huge source of joy, her brother Benjamin. He never let her down. He gave her much more than the money, clothes, flour, and wood recorded in their letters.

-104-

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