The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin HTML version
Letter from Mr. Abel James, with Notes of my Life (received in Paris).
"MY DEAR AND HONORED FRIEND: I have often been desirous of writing to thee,
but could not be reconciled to the thought that the letter might fall into the hands of the
British, lest some printer or busy-body should publish some part of the contents, and give
our friend pain, and myself censure.
"Some time since there fell into my hands, to my great joy, about twenty-three sheets in
thy own handwriting, containing an account of the parentage and life of thyself, directed
to thy son, ending in the year 1730, with which there were notes, likewise in thy writing;
a copy of which I inclose, in hopes it may be a means, if thou continued it up to a later
period, that the first and latter part may be put together; and if it is not yet continued, I
hope thee will not delay it. Life is uncertain, as the preacher tells us; and what will the
world say if kind, humane, and benevolent Ben. Franklin should leave his friends and the
world deprived of so pleasing and profitable a work; a work which would be useful and
entertaining not only to a few, but to millions? The influence writings under that class
have on the minds of youth is very great, and has nowhere appeared to me so plain, as in
our public friend's journals. It almost insensibly leads the youth into the resolution of
endeavoring to become as good and eminent as the journalist. Should thine, for instance,
when published (and I think it could not fail of it), lead the youth to equal the industry
and temperance of thy early youth, what a blessing with that class would such a work be!
I know of no character living, nor many of them put together, who has so much in his
power as thyself to promote a greater spirit of industry and early attention to business,
frugality, and temperance with the American youth. Not that I think the work would have
no other merit and use in the world, far from it; but the first is of such vast importance
that I know nothing that can equal it."
The foregoing letter and the minutes accompanying it being shown to a friend, I received
from him the following:
Letter from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan.
"PARIS, January 31, 1783.
"My DEAREST SIR: When I had read over your sheets of minutes of the principal
incidents of your life, recovered for you by your Quaker acquaintance, I told you I would
send you a letter expressing my reasons why I thought it would be useful to complete and
publish it as he desired. Various concerns have for some time past prevented this letter
being written, and I do not know whether it was worth any expectation; happening to be
at leisure, however, at present, I shall by writing, at least interest and instruct myself; but
as the terms I am inclined to use may tend to offend a person of your manners, I shall
only tell you how I would address any other person, who was as good and as great as
yourself, but less diffident. I would say to him, Sir, I solicit the history of your life from
the following motives: Your history is so remarkable, that if you do not give it, somebody