Franklin, Ben Essay, Research Paper
Ben Franklin: The Personification of American Spirit
During a time when colonial American culture was just beginning to develop, very few citizens were concerned with contributing to this blossoming civilization. Benjamin Franklin, whether he knew it at the time or not, was one of the exceptions. An inventor, printer, scientist, poet, Postmaster General, philosopher, politician, economist, ambassador, and author, Franklin contributed to many aspects of the prospering American colonies’ culture. Many Englishmen as well as colonists knew him as the ideal American. Though Franklin was responsible for many advancements in colonial society, he was especially influential as a scientist, author, and ambassador.
Ben Franklin, the scientist, was very able as well as versatile in the field, and his interests included electricity, mathematics, medicine, meteorology, astronomy, oceanography, invention, and countless other areas of research (Wertenbaker 69). Science, though very rarely studied by most early colonial Americans, was a field in which Franklin was well recognized by many scientists throughout Europe and received many awards therein. For instance, in 1753, the Royal Society awarded him the Copley medal, and Oxford University gave him an honorary degree for his study in the field of electricity (Middleton 302-303). With his famous kite and key experiment, Franklin made the discovery that lightning and electricity are identical. While most people are familiar with Franklin’s elevations in electricity, many are not apprised of his other scientific innovations such as bifocal glasses and daylight saving’s time. Franklin was inventor of his own bifocals, which he wore at all times, an uncommon practice at the time. This made him even more unique and “American” in the foreign lands where he traveled (Schoenbrun 95). Also, Franklin came up with the idea for daylight saving’s time; however, his motives were somewhat different from the current reason for the practice. Rather than to equally proportion the mismatched hours of dark to light during summer and winter, Franklin purposed adding or taking away an hour according to the season so people would not be as inactive during the summer’s extra hours of daylight. These scientific accomplishments encouraged colonial development to become more unique and independent.
As an author, Franklin also acquired substantial recognition. As a publisher of several newspapers throughout the colonies, Franklin found a knack for journalism. His Pennsylvania Gazette was unlike other papers in that he devoted several columns solely to European affairs as well as poems, letters, and discussions of local problems (Wertenbaker 73). Franklin, being a notable politician also drafted several municipal bodies of writing such as the “Albany Plan” and “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.” The “Albany Plan” called for the first united government of the American colonies and it set up an American plan for defense. Even though the bill was rejected by Parliament, its impact as a precursor to the Constitution is undeniable. The “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” is somewhat of a revised version of the “Albany Plan.” In it, Franklin asks for the repealing of the Intolerable Acts, reparations for the injuries to Boston, and the removal of the troops from America (Schoenbrun 27). Though he knew England would not meet his conditions, his general purpose for suggesting such was to imprint the minds of Congress with the forthcoming of independence. Franklin also wrote the annual Poor Richard’s Almanac, whose popularity in the colonies was second, only to the Bible (Charleton 147). These writings clearly benefit American colonial culture and amplify its pride.
Another way Franklin boosts Americanism is through his ambassadorship to several European countries. Though his purpose was otherwise, many Europeans regarded hem as the standard American. During his first journeys to England, he maintained an Englishman’s outlook, mainly concerned with the provincial politics of Pennsylvania. It was not until the issues of unlawful Parliamentary taxation, that Franklin became known as a celebrated spokesman for American rights in Britain (Charleton 148). He also spent about seven years in France. The main goal of this voyage was to form an alliance with the French against Britain. He gained a wide range of recognition in France and was also the embodiment of the typical American. He gave Americans a good name in France because he was well respected by many Frenchmen. During his final journey to Britain, in 1783, Franklin negotiated the Treaty of Paris with the British in order to secure American independence (Schoenbrun 389). Without this contribution, Americans would not have the same freedom that they experience today. Franklin’s diplomacy served both the Europeans as well as Americans, past and present.
At age 22, Franklin composed his own epitaph filled with twisted humor which read: “The body of B. Franklin, Printer (Like the Cover of an Old Book Its Contents Torn Out And Script of its Lettering and Gilding) Lies Here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be Lost; For it will (as he Believ’d) Appear once More In a New and More Elegant Edition Revised and Corrected By the Author” (Wright 274-275). This writing provides a worthy characterization of Franklin because he found analogies and humor in everything. He lived a long and profitable life during which he promoted the ideals of being uniquely American. His life and contributions illustrate the perfect image of the American dream, the image of a man who, in his very intentions, personifies the spirit of a true American.