Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER III The Boy Publisher

I

SOON after becoming apprenticed to his brother, Benjamin concludes with him a deal betraying that canny practicality which later enables him to conquer situations that another kind of nature might have accepted supinely. Benjamin has found that he can maintain himself very comfortably on a meatless diet. He therefore goes to James and offers to find his own food if James will give him half the money that Benjamin's board is costing him. James agrees instantly. So while the other apprentices are absent at their meals, Benjamin remains in the shop holding in one hand a raisin sandwich and in the other one of the precious books which he is now able to buy. He is putting into books half the money obtained from James.

This abstemiousness, added to other independent traits exhibited by his younger brother, arouses James's dislike. Benjamin isn't docile, he isn't "regular." James becomes surly and critical. Benjamin resents his slurs. These fraternal disputes are brought before their father. Benjamin tries out his modest Socratic method of presenting the case. He wins. This naturally doubles James's rage. In secret he falls upon Benjamin and beats him, not once but often. Ben, miserable but silent, bides his time. He awaits an opportunity to tear his indenture papers to pieces and fling them in James's lowering face. Fate and the Massachusetts Council come to the rescue.

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