The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family

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

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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The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • A Subjective Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Prologue: the Sweet Air of Twyford 1
  • I - Son and Sibling 5
  • II - Errata Committed, Errata Corrected 16
  • III - Industry, Frugality, Fertility 30
  • IV - Out of the Home and into the World 42
  • V - "Much of a Beau" 59
  • VI - "The Seeds of Every Female Virtue" 70
  • VII - London 78
  • VIII - Homecoming, Homesickness 93
  • IX - Faith or Deeds? 104
  • X - The Dream and the Nightmare 116
  • XI - Father of the Bride 135
  • XII - The Patriarch of Craven Street 149
  • XIII - "Sorrows Roll Upon Me like The, Waves of the Sea" 158
  • XIV - "Your a Feck Shonet Wife" 166
  • XV - Steering Through Storms 176
  • XVI - "You Are a Thorough Courtier" 190
  • XVII - Tug of War 200
  • XVIII - No Watch for Benny, No Feathers for Sally 218
  • XIX - "Temple, is My Right Hand" 236
  • XX - "Nothing Has Ever Hurt Me So Much" 253
  • XXI - Indian Summer 266
  • XXII - From Seine to Schuylkill 281
  • XXIII - Slaves 296
  • XXIV - "Our Little Fleet of Barques" 308
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index 351
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