BENJAMIN was the fifteenth of his father's seventeen children, the last of his ten sons; but he was first in success and worldly goods. Cheerfully, as his means allowed, Benjamin accepted his responsibilities for the others. To brothers and sisters, then to nieces and nephews, ultimately to grandnieces and grandnephews in the bewildering Franklin genealogy he gave advice and encouragement. He threw business their way, got them appointments in the Post Office which he headed, lent them money and made them allowances when they were old and sick, and provided for them in his wills. With his youngest sister Jane the sense of obligation was less important than genuine affection and the capacity of each to share the other's thoughts and experience. This earliest surviving letter to her was occasioned by news of her impending marriage, at the age of fifteen, to Edward Mecom of Boston. If the tone of big brother's letter is a little condescending, that is perhaps to be excused; he was, after all, twenty-one years old and had been making his own way in the world for more than three years.
Philadelphia, January 6, 1726-7
I am highly pleased with the account captain Freeman gives me of you. I always judged by your behaviour when a child that you would make a good, agreeable woman, and you know you were ever my peculiar favourite. I have been thinking what would be a suitable present for me to make, and for you to receive, as I hear you are grown a celebrated beauty. I had almost determined on a tea table, but when I considered that the character of a good housewife was far preferable to that of being only a pretty gentlewoman, I concluded to send you a spinning wheel, which I hope you will accept as a small token of my sincere love and affection.