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the sexton of the parish. Even when he was taken to a more advanced institution, he attempted no higher study than the keeping of accounts and the copying of legal and mercantile papers. A few years later, it was thought he might enter the civil or military service of his country; and he was put to the study of mathematics and land-surveying.

George Washington did nothing by halves. In youth, as in manhood, he did thoroughly what he had to do. His school exercise books are models of neatness and accuracy. His plans and measurements made while he studied land surveying were as scrupulously exact as if great pecuniary interests depended upon them. In his eighteenth year he was employed by Government as surveyor of public lands. Many of his surveys were recorded in the county offices, and remain to this day. Long experience has established their unvarying accuracy. In all disputes to which they have any relevancy, their evidence is accepted as decisive. During the years which preceded the Revolution he managed his estates, packed and shipped his own tobacco and flour, kept his own books, conducted his own correspondence. His books may still be seen. Perhaps no clearer or more accurate record of business transactions has been kept in America since the Father of American Independence rested from book-keeping. The flour which he shipped to foreign ports came to be known as his, and the Washington brand was habitually exempted from inspection. A most reliable man, his words and his deeds, his professions and his practice, are ever found in most perfect harmony. By some he has been regarded as a stolid, prosaic person, wanting in those features of character which captivate the minds of men.

In an earlier age George Washington would have been a true knight-errant, with an insatiable thirst for adventure and a passionate love of battle. He had in a high degree those qualities which make ancient knighthood picturesque. But higher qualities than

Not so.


Benjamin Franklin.


these bore rule within him. He had wisdom beyond most, giving him deep insight into the wants of his time. He had clear perceptions of the duty which lay to his hand. What he saw to be right, the strongest impulses of his soul constrained him to do. A massive intellect and an iron strength of will were given to him, with a gentle, loving heart, with dauntless courage, with purity and loftiness of aim. He had a work of extraordinary difficulty to perform. History rejoices to recognize in him a revolutionary leader against whom no questionable transaction has ever been alleged.

The history of America presents, in one important feature, a very striking contrast to the history of nearly all older countries. In the old countries, history gathers round some one grand central figure, — some judge or priest or king, whose biography tells all that has to be told concerning the time in which he lived. That one predominating person David, Alexander, Cæsar, Napoleon — is among his people what the sun is in the planetary system.

All movement originates and terminates in him, and the history of the people is merely a record of what he has chosen to do or caused to be done. In America it has not been so. The American system leaves no room for predominating persons. It affords none of those exhibitions of solitary, all-absorbing grandeur which are so picturesque, and have been so pernicious. Her history is a history of her people, and of no conspicuous individuals. Once only in her career is it otherwise. During the lifetime of George Washington her history clings very closely to him ; and the biography of her great chief becomes in a very unusual degree the history of the country.


While Washington's boyhood was being passed on the banks of the Potomac, a young man, destined to help him in gaining the independence of the country, was toiling hard in the city of Philadelphia to earn an honest livelihood. His name was Benjamin Franklin. He kept a small stationer's shop. He edited a newspaper. He was a bookbinder. He made ink. He sold rags, soap, and coffee. He was also a printer, employing a journeyman and an apprentice to aid

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him in his labors. He was a thriving man; but he was not ashamed to convey along the streets, in a wheelbarrow, the paper which he bought for the purposes of his trade. As a boy he had been studious and thoughtful. As a man he was prudent, sagacious, trustworthy.

When he had earned a moderate competency he ceased to labor at his business. Henceforth he labored to serve his


Benjamin Franklin.


fellow-men. Philadelphia owes to Franklin her university, her hospital, her first and greatest library.

He earned renown as a man of science. It had long been his thought that lightning and electricity were the same; but

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he found no way to prove the truth of his theory. At length he made a kite fitted suitably for his experiment. He stole away from his house during a thunder-storm, having told no one but his son, who accompanied him. The kite was sent up among the stormy clouds, and the anxious philosopher waited. For a time no response to his eager questioning was granted, and Franklin's countenance fell. But at length he felt the welcome shock, and his heart thrilled with the high consciousness that he had added to the sum of human knowledge.

When the troubles arose in connection with the Stamp Act, Franklin was sent to England to defend the rights of the colonists. The vigor of his intellect, the matured wisdom of his opinions, gained for him a wonderful supremacy over the men with whom he was brought into contact.

He was examined before Parliament. Edmund Burke said that the scene reminded him of a master examined by a parcel of school-boys, so conspicuously was the witness superior to his interrogators.

Franklin was an early advocate of the independence of the colonies, and aided in preparing the famous Declaration. In all the councils of that eventful time he bore a leading part. He was the first American ambassador to France; and the good sense and vivacity of the old printer gained for him high favor in the fashionable world of Paris. He lived to aid in framing the Constitution under which America has enjoyed so great prosperity. He died soon after. A few months before his death he wrote to Washington: “I am now finishing my eighty-fourth year, and probably with it my career in this life ; but in whatever state of existence I am placed hereafter, if I retain any memory of what has passed here, I shall with it retain the esteem, respect, and affection with which I have long regarded you.”

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