Benjamin Franklin is remembered as an inventor, author, statesman, and signer of the Declaration of Independence. But all great people were kids once and got into mischief. In writing about his life, Franklin recalled a youthful event that he later regretted.
Franklin was born in Boston in 1706. His father, whom Ben admired and respected, was a soapmaker and candlemaker with a large family. At the age of ten, Ben was taken out of school and put to work in the shop.
Ben described his duties as “cutting wick for the candles, filling the dipping mold and the molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going on errands, etc.” But of course he preferred playing outdoors with his friends.
The Franklin family lived near the water, so Ben learned to swim well and to handle small boats.
He wrote that he was a leader among the boys in his neighborhood and “sometimes led them into scrapes.” One such episode is told here in his own words.
“There was a salt-marsh that bounded part of the mill-pond, on the edge of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish for minnows. By much trampling, we had made it a mere quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharf there fit for us to stand upon, and I showed my comrades a large heap of stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would very well suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the workmen were gone, I assembled a number of my play-fellows, and working with them diligently like so many emmets [ants], sometimes two or three to a stone, we brought them all away and built our little wharf. The next morning the workmen were surprised at missing the stones, which were found in our wharf. Inquiry was made after the removers; we were discovered and complained of; several of us were corrected by our fathers; and, though I pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine convinced me that nothing was useful which was not honest.”