[“I am now about to write at home, August, 1788, but can not have the help expected from my papers, many of them being lost in the war. I have, however, found the following.”]
This is a marginal memorandum. – B.
HAVING mentioned a great and extensive project which I had conceiv’d, it seems proper that some account should be here given of that project and its object. Its first rise in my mind appears in the following little paper, accidentally preserv’d, viz.:
Observations on my reading history, in Library, May 19th, 1731.
“That the great affairs of the world, the wars, revolutions, etc., are carried on and affected by parties.
“That the view of these parties is their present general interest, or what they take to be such.
“That the different views of these different parties occasion all confusion.
“That while a party is carrying on a general design, each man has his particular private interest in view.
“That as soon as a party has gain’d its general point, each member becomes intent upon his particular interest; which, thwarting others, breaks that party into divisions, and occasions more confusion.
“That few in public affairs act from a meer view of the good of their country, whatever they may pretend; and, tho’ their actings bring real good to their country, yet men primarily considered that their own and their country’s interest was united, and did not act from a principle of benevolence.
“That fewer still, in public affairs, act with a view to the good of mankind.
“There seems to me at present to be great occasion for raising a United Party for Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all nations into a regular body, to be govern’d by suitable good and wise rules, which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in their obedience to, than common people are
to common laws.
“I at present think that whoever attempts this aright, and is well qualified, can not fail of pleasing God, and of meeting with success. B. F.”
Revolving this project in my mind, as to be undertaken hereafter, when my circumstances should afford me the necessary leisure, I put down from time to time, on pieces of paper, such thoughts as occurr’d to me respecting it. Most of these are lost; but I find one purporting to be the substance of an intended creed) containing, as I thought, the essentials of every known religion, and being free of every thing that might shock the professors of any religion. It is express’d in these words, viz.:
“That there is one God, who made all things.
“That he governs the world by his providence.
“That he ought to be worshiped by adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving.
“But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man.
“That the soul is immortal.
“And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice either here or hereafter.”
In the Middle Ages, Franklin, if such a phenomenon as Franklin were possible in the Middle Ages, would probably have been the founder of a monastic order. – B.