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perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.
I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person; whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it. I intend this letter itself as a proof of my friendship, and therefore add no professions to it; but subscribe simply yours,
B. FRANKLIN. DATE uncertain.
TO NOAH WEBSTER, ON NEW-FANGLED MODES OF WRITING AND
CANNOT but applaud your zeal for preserving the purity of our
language, both in its expressions and pronunciation, and in correcting the popular errors several of our States are continually falling into with respect to both. Give me leave to mention some of them, though possibly they may have already occurred to you. I wish, however, in some future publication of yours, you would set a discountenancing mark upon them. The first I remember is the word improved. When I left New England, in the year 1723, this word had never been used among us, as far as I know, but in the sense of ameliorated or made better, except once in a very old book of Dr. Mather's, entitled Remarkable Providences. As that eminent man wrote a very obscure hand, I remember that when I read that word in his book, used instead of the word imployed, I conjectured it was an error of the printer, who had mistaken a too short l in the writing for an r, and a y with too short a tail for a v; whereby imployed was converted into improved.
But when I returned to Boston, in 1733, I found this change had obtained favor, and was then become common; for I met with it often in perusing the newspapers, where it frequently made an appearance rather ridiculous. Such, for instance, as the advertisement of a country-house to be sold, which had been many years improved as a tavern; and, in the character of a deceased country gentleman, that he had been for more than thirty years improved as a justice of the peace. This use of the
word improved is peculiar to New England, and not to be met with among any other speakers of English, either on this or the other side of the water.
During my late absence in France, I find that several other new words have been introduced into our parliamentary language; for example, I find a verb formed from the substantive notice; I should not have NOTICED this, were it not that the gentleman, etc. Also another verb from the substantive advocate; The gentleman who ADVOCATES or has ADVOCATED that motion, &c. Another from the substantive progress, the most awkward and abominable of the three; The committee, having PROGRESSED, resolved to adjourn. The word opposed, though not a new word, I find used in a new manner, as, The gentlemen who are OPPOSED to this measure; to which I have also myself always been OPPOSED. If you should happen to be of my opinion with respect to these innovations, you will use your authority in reprobating them.
In examining the English books, that were printed between the Restoration and the accession of George the Second, we may observe, that all substantives were begun with a capital, in which we imitated our mother tongue, the German. This was more particularly useful to those who were not well acquainted with the English; there being such a prodigious number of our words, that are both verbs and substantives, and spelled in the same manner, though often accented differently in the pronunciation.
This method has, by the fancy of printers, of late years been laid aside, from an idea that suppressing the capitals shows the character to greater advantage; those letters prominent above the line disturbing its even regular appearance. The effect of this change is so considerable, that a learned man of France, who used to read our books, though not perfectly acquainted with our language, in conversation with me on the subject of our authors, attributed the greater obscurity he found in our modern books, compared with those of the period above mentioned, to change of style for the worse in our writers; of which mistake I convinced him, by marking for him each substantive with a capital in a paragraph, which he then easily understood, though before he could not comprehend it. This shows the inconvenience of that pretended improvement.
From the same fondness for an even and uniform appearance of characters in the line, the printers have of late banished also the Italic types, in which words of importance to be attended to in the sense of the sentence, and words on which an emphasis should be put in reading, used to be printed. And lately another fancy has induced some printers to use the short round s, instead of the long one, which formerly served well to distinguish a word readily by its varied appearance. Certainly the omitting this prominent letter makes the line appear more even; but
renders it less immediately legible; as the paring all men's noses might smooth and level their faces, but would render their physiognomies less distinguishable.
B. FRANKLIN. PHILADELPHIA, 26 December, 1789.
TO EZRA STILES, WITH A STATEMENT OF HIS RELIGIOUS CREED.
COU desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I
have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is like to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity ; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.
I shall only add, respecting myself, that, having experienced the goodness of that Being in conducting me prosperously through a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness.
B. FRANKLIN. PHILADELPHIA, 9 March, 1790.
FROM THE PAPERS RECENTLY ACQUIRED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT.
[Taken, by permission of the Rev. E. E. Hale, from copies to be used in his book
entitled “Franklin in France."]
TO DAVID HARTLEY, EXPLAINING THE ORIGIN OF THE STAMP ACT. IN the pamphlets you were so kind as to lend me there is one impor
tant fact misstated, apparently from the writers not having been furnished with good information. It is the transaction between Mr. Grenville and the Colonies, wherein he understands that Mr. Grenville de. manded of them a specific sum, that they refused to grant anything, and that it was on their refusal only that he made the motion for the Stamp Act. No one of these particulars is true. The fact is this.
Sometime in the winter of 1763-4, Mr. Grenville called together the agents of the several colonies, and told them that he purposed to draw a revenue from America and to that end his intention was to levy a stamp duty on the colonies by act of Parliament in the ensuing session, of which he thought they should be immediately acquainted, that they might have time to consider, and, if any other duty equally productive would be more agreeable to them, they might let him know it. The agents were therefore directed to write this to their respective Assemblies, and communicate to him the answers they should receive. The agents wrote accordingly.
I was a member in the Assembly of Pennsylvania when this notification came to hand. The observations there made upon
were, that the ancient, established and regular method of drawing aids from the colonies was this. The occasion was always first considered by their sovereign in his Privy Council, by whose sage advice he directed his Secretary of State to write circular letters to the several governors, who were directed to lay them before their Assemblies. In those letters the occasion was explained for their satisfaction, with gracious expressions of His Majesty's confidence in their known duty and affection, on which they replied that they would grant such sums as should be suitable to their abilities, loyalty and zeal for his service. That the Colonies had always granted liberally on such requisitions and so liberally during the late war, that the king, sensible they had granted much more than their proportion, had recommended it to Parliament five years successively to make them some compensation, and the Parliament accordingly returned them £200,000 a year to be divided among them. That the proposition of taxing them in Parliament was therefore both cruel and unjust. That by the constitution of the Colonies their business was with the king in
matters of aid; they had nothing to do with any financier, nor he with them; nor were the agents the proper channels through which requisitions should be made. It was therefore improper for them to enter into any stipulation, or make any proposition to Mr. Grenville about laying taxes on their constituents by Parliament, which had really no right at all to tax them, especially as the notice he had sent them did not appear to be by the king's order and perhaps was without his knowledge; as the king when he would obtain anything from them always accompanied his requisition with good words, but this gentleman, instead of a decent demand, sent them a menace that they should certainly be taxed, and only left them the choice of the manner. But, all this notwithstanding, they were so far from refusing to grant money that they resolved to the following purpose: “ That, as they always had, so they always should, think it their duty to grant aid to the crown according to their abilities, whenever required of them in the usual constitutional manner.” I went soon after to England, and took with me an authentic copy of this resolution, which I presented to Mr. Grenville before he brought in the Stamp Act. I asserted in the House of Commons (Mr. Grenville being present) that I had done so, and he did not deny it. Other Colonies made similar resolutions. And had Mr. Grenville instead of that Act applied to the king in Council for such requisitional letters to be circulated by the Secretary of State, I am sure he would have obtained more money from the Colonies by their voluntary grants than he himself expected from his stamps. But he chose compulsion rather than persuasion, and would not receive from their good will what he thought he could obtain without it. And thus the golden bridge, which the ingenious author thinks the Americans unwisely and unbecomingly refused to hold out to the Minister and Parliament, was actually held out to them, but they refused to walk over it. This is the true history of that transaction, and, as it is probable there may be another edition of that excellent pamphlet, I wish this may be communicated to the candid author, who I doubt not will correct that error. I am ever, with sincere esteem, dear Sir, &c.
B. FRANKLIN. PASSY, 12 March, 1778.
TO ROBERT MORRIS, ON THE STATE OF AMERICAN CREDIT IN EUROPE.
until with her own credit and resources she is able to defend herself and correct her enemies," appears to me perfectly just. And the resolutions you have taken of endeavoring to " establish our credit, by