The Story of Benjamin Franklin

by James Baldwin

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Chapter VIII: Governor William Keith

Franklin soon obtained work in a printing house owned by a man named Keimer. He found a boarding place in the house of Mr. Read, the father of the girl who had laughed at him with his three rolls.

He was only seventeen years old, and he soon became acquainted with several young people in the town who loved books.

In a little while he began to lay up money, and he tried to forget his old home in Boston as much as he could.

One day a letter came to Philadelphia for Benjamin Franklin.

It was from Captain Robert Holmes, a brother-in-law of Franklin's.

Captain Holmes was the master of a trading sloop that sailed between Boston and Delaware Bay. While he was loading his vessel at Newcastle, forty miles below Philadelphia, he had happened to hear about the young man Franklin who had lately come from Boston.

He sat down at once and wrote a letter to the young man. He told him how his parents and friends were grieving for him in Boston. He begged him to go back home, and said that everything would be made right if he would do so.

When Franklin read this letter he felt very sad to think of the pain and distress which he had caused.

But he did not want to return to Boston. He felt that he had been badly treated by his brother, and, therefore, that he was not the only one to be blamed. He believed that he could do much better in Philadelphia than anywhere else.

So he sat down and wrote an answer to Captain Holmes. He wrote it with great care, and sent it off to Newcastle by the first boat that was going that way.

Now it so happened that Sir William Keith, the governor of the province, was at Newcastle at that very time. He was with Captain Holmes when the letter came to hand.

When Captain Holmes had read the letter he was so pleased with it that he showed it to the governor.

Governor Keith read it and was surprised when he learned that its writer was a lad only seventeen years old.

"He is a young man of great promise," he said; "and he must be encouraged. The printers in Philadelphia know nothing about their business. If young Franklin will stay there and set up a press, I will do a great deal for him."

One day not long after that, when Franklin was at work in Keimer's printing-office, the governor came to see him. Franklin was very much surprised.

The governor offered to set him up in a business of his own. He promised that he should have all the public printing in the province.

"But you will have to go to England to buy your types and whatever else you may need."

Franklin agreed to do this. But he must first return to Boston and get his father's consent and assistance.

The governor gave him a letter to carry to his father. In a few weeks he was on his way home.

You may believe that Benjamin's father and mother were glad to see him. He had been gone seven months, and in all that time they had not heard a word from him.

His brothers and sisters were glad to see him, too—all but the printer, James, who treated him very unkindly. His father read the governor's letter, and then shook his head.

"What kind of a man is this Governor Keith?" he asked. "He must have but little judgment to think of setting up a mere boy in business of this kind."

After that he wrote a letter of thanks to the governor. He said that he was grateful for the kindness he had shown to his son, and for his offer to help him. But he thought that Benjamin was still too young to be trusted with so great a business, and therefore he would not consent to his undertaking it. As for helping him, that he could not do; for he had but little more money than was needed to carry on his own affairs.


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